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Manufacturer: ASUS

An overview of Thunderbolt Technology

The promise of Thunderbolt connectivity has been around for a couple of years now. Today, Thunderbolt is finally finding its way to the PC platform in the form of motherboards from ASUS and MSI. First unveiled as "Light Peak" at the Intel Developer Forum in 2009, the technology started out as a way to connect multiple devices to a system over a fiber optic cable (hence the 'light' in the name), though the final products have changed the implementation slightly.

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The first prototype implementations actually used a USB-style connection and interface. It further required fiber optic cables. When it was renamed to Thunderbolt and then released in conjunction with a new lineup of Apple MacBook laptops, not only did the physical interface move to a mini-DisplayPort connection but the cable was made to use copper rather than fiber. Without diving too far into the reasons and benefits of either direction, the fact is that the copper cables allow for modest power transfer and are much cheaper than fiber optic variants would be.

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Thunderbolt's base technology remains the same, however. It is a transfer standard that allows for 10 Gbps of bandwidth for each channel (bi-directional) and concurrently supports both data and display connections. The actual interface for the data path is based on PCI Express and connected devices actually appear to Windows as if they are internally connected to the system which can offer some interesting benefits – and headaches – for hardware developers. The display connection uses the DisplayPort standard and can be used along with the data connection without affecting bandwidth levels or performance.  

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For current Intel processor implementations, the Thunderbolt connection is supported by a separate controller chip on the motherboard (or a riser card) – and some routing is required for correct usage. The Thunderbolt controller does not actually include a graphics controller, so it must be fed an output from another graphics processor, obviously in this case directly from the Ivy Bridge / Sandy Bridge processors. In theory, these could be from other controllers, but with the ubiquitous nature of integrated processor graphics on IVB and SNB processors, this is going to be the implementation going forward according to motherboard and system designers. 

Continue reading our review of Thunderbolt on Windows and the ASUS P8Z77-V Premium!!

OCZ shows Kilimanjaro platform in the form of mini PCIe through Z-Drive R5

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2012 - 01:32 AM |
Tagged: CES, ssd, r5, r4, ocz, cloudserv

Earlier today we got our first hands-on of OCZ's new Kilimanjaro platform. This is the result of a joint venture between OCZ and Micron. The premise is simple: Most SSD and even PCIe storage devices use SATA as the primary or intermediate interface. This adds latency to the connection, and eventually limits the ultimate IOPS a given device can achieve. Kilimanjaro employs a new type of controller that takes commands directly from the host system via a single lane of PCIe 2.0, and in turn directly drives 4 channels of flash. This is all done without any SATA or SAS communications whatsoever. Here is what the simplest form of this platform looks like:

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This may be a bit confusing to some. The above pic is *not* of an mSATA device. Recall that mSATA borrowed the physical specification of mini PCIe (like the Wi-Fi adapter in most laptops). This device could plug into one of those slots (or even a hybrid mini-PCIe/mSATA port), and would link to the system via a PCIe 2.0 x1 link. This makes it capable of 50,000 IOPS and 500MB/sec - speeds similar to that of a good SATA 6Gb/sec SSD. The advantage of this platform is twofold. First is the lower latency achieved by getting rid of the middle man (SATA). Second is the way PCIe bridged storage can scale. The current far extreme of this comes in the form of the Z-Drive R5:
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This is essentially the same as the mini-PCIe device we just looked at, except there are 16 of them. The 16 PCIe 2.0 1x devices are interleaved evenly through a special PHY to a PCIe 3.0 x8 link to the host system. This makes for some insane bandwidth and IOPS possibilities. I'm fairly certain that the placard in the above pic was meant for the half-height (8 channel) R5, since the platform is capable of up to 7GB/sec and 2.5 million IOPS in the full height form factor. Marvell and OCZ still have a little ways to go on driver and firmware development for this new platform, so it may be a few months before we see it in the wild. Once that happens, we might see mid-point models with 2-4 controllers replacing the RevoDrive series shortly thereafter.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

OCZ shows a new R4 - the Z-Drive R4 CloudServ, with 16 (!) SandForce 2200 SSD's!

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2012 - 01:10 PM |
Tagged: z-drive, ssd, r4, pcie, ocz, CES

OCZ has a monster of a Z-Drive R4 on display at Storage Visions. We looked at the original 1.6TB R4 back in September. That one had 8 SF-2200 controllers on-board. This new R4 has 16!

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This R4 has a beast of a VCA 2.0 controller. It's cooled by heat pipes, can handle up to 16 SATA links, address up to 16TB of storage, and pass up to 1.4 million IOPS across a PCIe bus at 6.5GB/sec (yes, GigaBytes). Note: this is not the R5, it's just a *really* fast R4.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: OCZ Technology
Tagged: z-drive, ssd, r4, pcie, pci-e, ocz

Introduction

Introduction:

Back in June of last year, OCZ released the RevoDrive, followed up rather quickly by the RevoDrive x2. A further jump was made with the introduction of VCA 2.0 architecture with the RevoDrive 3 and 3 x2. Each iteration pushed the envelope further as better implementations of VCA were introduced, using faster and greater numbers of PCIe channels, linked to faster and greater numbers of SandForce controllers.

While the line of RevoDrives was tailored more towards power users and mild server use, OCZ has taken their VCA 2.0 solution to the next level entirely, putting their sights on full blown enterprise purposing. With that, we introduce the OCZ Z-Drive R4:

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Continue to the full review for all the details!