Next-gen SandForce SSD controller shown in OCZ Vertex 3

Just a few years ago, OCZ's CES showcase was dominated by memory modules. Row upon row of DIMMs were on display, each with a heatsink a little taller and more outlandish than the next. My, how things have changed. At this year's show, there were only a handful of DIMMs out at OCZ's suite. The company's latest heat-spreader designs were relegated to the corner, over by the snacks and bottled water, while solid-state drives took center stage.

OCZ is all about SSDs these days. The full line was spread out for the show, and we caught a glimpse of a couple of intriguing new entries.

By far the most interesting of the bunch was the Vertex 3 Pro, which OCZ had running in a demo system. The new Vertex taps a next-gen SandForce SF-2582 controller with a 6Gbps Serial ATA interface. According to the ATTO disk benchmark that was running at the time, the drive hit its sustained read and write speed targets of 550 and 525MB/s, respectively.

OCZ tells us that the final version of the Vertex 3 will use different flash memory chips than what was present in the demo unit. That change may impact the performance picture, although we won't have to wait too long to find out. The third-generation Vertex is slated to arrive in a couple of months.

While the 6Gbps SATA interface offers a nice step up in bandwidth compared to the old 3Gbps spec, it's nothing compared to what you can get with a few PCI Express lanes. OCZ's latest Z-Drive has a PCIe 2.0 x8 link hooked up to no fewer than four SandForce-based SSDs. We couldn't get specifics on the RAID chip used to transform those four drives into a single striped array, but we do know that the flash controllers are current-generation designs rather than the new hotness inside the Vertex 3.

The R3 has been built on a half-height card that should slot easily into low-profile server chassis. As one might expect, the performance specifications look mighty impressive: 1,000MB/s sustained reads, 950MB/s writes, and up to 135,000 random-write IOps. You'll be able to get this puppy with up to 1.2TB of MLC flash and as much as 600GB of SLC memory.

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