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OCZ RevoDrive 3 x2 480GB PCIe SSD Review - Seriously Fast Storage

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: OCZ Technology
Tagged: ssd, PCIe SSD, pcie, ocz

Introduction

Introduction:

Back in June of last year, OCZ released the RevoDrive, followed up rather quickly by the RevoDrive x2. Both models represented a new way of economically bundling multiple SSD controllers behind an integrated RAID solution. This broke the mold for storage, as the vast majority of end users were stuck with the common 2.5" form factor SATA SSD (as well as trying to figure out where to put one inside their desktop case full of 3.5" drive bays). Since all desktops had PCIe slots, the Revo concept just seemed to make sense.

Now on the 1-year mark since the original Revo, we have the RevoDrive 3. OCZ has opted to skip the staggering of releases and is also releasing the 4-channel version, the RevoDrive 3 x2. Today we will be looking at the latter, in 480GB form factor. Here's a look at the new silicon:

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Continue to the full review for all the details!

New tech:

The last generation RevoDrives used a rather simple SiliconImage RAID-0 solution, which scaled rather nicely at greater queue depths, something not accomplished by prior integrated SSD RAID solutions. The RevoDrive 3 takes this to new heights with VCA 2.0 (Virtualized Controller Architecture):

OCZ SuperScale™ storage controller enables infinitely scalable performance. VCA 2.0™ in OCZ enterprise PCIe devices supports the creation of a virtual pool of logical units (LUNs) and features best-in-class configurable performance aggregation.

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VCA Architecture

VCA technology can interpret and execute both SCSI and ATA commands across any physical interface and utilize any available internal interface to facilitate communication across multiple elements of the overall drive architecture. Current OCZ hardware implementations support SCSI commands over PCIe (Z-Drive) and Serial (Talos). This storage virtualization currently allows SCSI commands to be sent through PCIe or SAS physical interfaces to an internal virtualized array of NAND devices.

In essence, the new VCA controller acts like a supercharged traffic cop. It's able to intelligently handle multiple IO requests from the host (PC) side, and arrange them, on-the-fly, in the best possible order to be passed onto the SSD controllers. This minimizes the possibility of lag introduced by any single controller from negatively impacting the IO performance of the Revo as a whole.

VCA 2.0 is the only virtualization layer in the industry with TRIM and SCSI Unmap Support to enhance sustained performance by significantly reducing the overhead associated with garbage collection. Consolidated SMART support provides system administrators with advanced features for monitoring analyzing and reporting device attributes. User-selectable data recovery and non-stop modes allows for unprecedented data protection.

Unlike other flash virtualization layers, OCZ VCA 2.0 supports complete power fail protection. OCZ enterprise PCIe devices store all metadata in nonvolatile memory while power fail protection completes all in-progress transactions in the event of an unexpected system power loss.

June 28, 2011 | 09:34 AM - Posted by Chris Topher (not verified)

Great review Allyn. You mentioned that the RevoDrive would be good for entry-level servers or high performance work stations. Would the Raid 0 nature of the RevoDrive make you a little wary of placing this into a server environment? Maybe you're implying there would be fail over/redundancy protections in place, but at least with hard drives, I would never consider a R0 server setup for our small biz server.

Would you mind elaborating a bit?

Thanks, Chris

June 28, 2011 | 10:53 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

For the type of application where super-high IOPS is desired, you reach a threshold where you just can't get any higher with redundancy included in the package. For these situations you'd have to add the redundancy factor yourself, be it near-line backups or an identical controller installed into the same server and mirrored using the OS perhaps. The Revo is not unique in this bleeding-edge performance niche - the FusionIO products are not redundant either.

As a side note, many VCA controllers have a mode equivalent to RAID-5. This silicon is fast enough to include parity for one (or two) drive failures with a minimal performance hit. OCZ could probably enable this, perhaps for a more purely business-oriented model, but I don't see it as that high of a need really. It would be a niche of what is already a niche to begin with!

Consider that adding parity to support failure of one of the SandForce channels. That's some form of chip failure - be it the SandForce or its bank of flash. There's plenty of other chips on a RevoDrive that are common to the unit as a whole, and a failure of one of those will still take the whole card down (single point failure). If redundancy was so important for a very high performance application, I would rather skip the parity calculation overhead / capacity reduction and go straight for the '2 of everything' approach. Added bonus - a pair of these mirrored at the OS level would have the write performance of a single unit, but read performance would be doubled, so you would *further* increase performance and add redundancy at the same time. That's a win-win not possible with overhead-inducing RAID / parity-based solutions.

Also note: You could buy 2 of the 960GB models for *less* than a single ioDrive 160. Ouch.

Al

June 28, 2011 | 11:31 AM - Posted by dgingeri (not verified)

It's nice, but for $1600 you can get a 3Ware 9750 controller and 4 Vertex 3 120GB drives, get the same capacity, 512MB of buffer, and a wider interface, for $100 cheaper. I think I'd rather go that way.

July 6, 2011 | 09:19 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

The interface is irrelevant if the controller itself is the bottleneck. If the 3Ware can manage to peg the PCIe interface in sequential reads, that's great, but only marginally better than what the OCZ unit can do (as it's nearly saturating all 4 SSD's).

The LSISAS2108 chip (on the 3Ware 9750) is only rated at 1.1GB/sec sequential writes, while the Revo3 hits close to 1.6GB/sec. That's a 50% reduction in performance.

The LSISAS2108 will very likely come nowhere near the Revo3's 200k IOPS rating in random access. Every RAID solution I've tested tops out at roughly the peak IOPS of *1* good SSD (~50k IOPS). This is due to the latency added by managing the cache. 512MB RAM caches are for HDD's, not SSD's. While I haven't personally tested the LSISAS2108 / 3Ware 9750, I'd be shocked if it could break 100k.

August 13, 2011 | 08:34 AM - Posted by Birdofprey (not verified)

That does raise a question: THis and the previous Revodrives are internal RAID 0 devices, so why don't you test it against RAID setups? Of course it's going to blow a lone SSD out of the water. So would a quartet of those same SSDs attached to a RAID controller, so that doesn't, by itself, constitute a reason to get one of these.

I have heard the some comment about why not just get a raid controller and a couple of SSDs instead regarding the original revo too. Some data that supports one of those options is much more useful than including a HDD for us to laugh at.

June 28, 2011 | 12:27 PM - Posted by Tommy (not verified)

I have had plenty of experience with the Revo and Revo2. I wish to express my words of caution of using the Revo3 as a boot drive. With many weeks of testing several motherboards and adjustings various BIOS's. The Revo's could never become stable as a boot drive. Somehow, files would always become corrupt. As a secondary drive, for placing the pagefile, all temp files and general work files. The revo's are mind blowing fast. No doubt, by looking at the numbers for the Revo3, it will impress anyone.

June 29, 2011 | 05:52 AM - Posted by dreamer77dd (not verified)

i would only get this storage as a boot drive. I wonder what Allyn has to say about that. i would put in the review that it is a boot-able drive though. i am not sure how you would test it for instability as a boot drive. i dont heard in the news about issues of things being corrupt and such. I will keep this in mind.
i like this storage drive though, hate to hear bad things about it.

July 6, 2011 | 08:59 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

I've tested all three Revo's in a boot configuration and never noted any corruption issues. Revo / x2 were tested under XP and XP64. I've only tested Revo3 under 32-bit (Win 7) as we don't yet have signed 64 bit drivers, which precludes install without additional hackery.

June 29, 2011 | 05:18 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

That is one sexy piece of silicon lol

July 1, 2011 | 06:27 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Well, i am using a revodrive as boot drive for over a year and ir never fails a boot or damage files...

July 4, 2011 | 03:49 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Are you aware of this Allyn?

"However I was wondering about TRIM support, as the last time I checked it needs to be supported by Microsoft. A question that I had to verify with OCZ. Though the Revo3 card supports TRIM, because the architecture is based on SCSI, the Microsoft Windows StorPort architecture currently does not support either TRIM or SCSI UNMAP. As such, these commands are not generated by the OS, which of course prevents VCA from executing them. OCZ is working with Microsoft to have this functionality enabled as soon as possible. So that will take a RAID driver update alright, but that should not effect your data already on the drive."

Source: http://www.guru3d.com/article/ocz-revodrive-3-x2-review/16

Anandtech and tomshardware say something similar.
Apparently TRIM only works on Linux as of now.

July 6, 2011 | 08:56 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Yes. TRIM won't pass through StorPort until Microsoft adds support for this functionality to Windows. This will likely come in the form of a hotfix, but the ETA on that is totally up to Microsoft.

As with other SF-controlled devices, keep in mind they are very resilient to the performance hit seen when used without TRIM. The same applies to the Revo3.

August 12, 2011 | 04:02 PM - Posted by Sean G (not verified)

What an insightful and well-written review. Its good to see PC Perspective attracting such great talent! I look forward to more of your articles.

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