OCZ, Marvell scale Kilimanjaro with PCIe SSD

While visiting OCZ’s suite at the Consumer Electronics Show, we got a first-hand look at the Kilimanjaro platform poised to anchor a range of different solid-state drives. This scalable solution was jointly developed with Marvell, whose 88NV9145 controller serves as the foundation for Kilimanjaro’s custom silicon. The Marvell chip features an ARM CPU core, quad memory channels, and support for both ONFI and Toggle DDR NAND. Rather than relying on Serial ATA, the 88NV9145 sports a native PCI Express 2.0 x1 interface. OCZ adds its own special sauce to the equation for Kilimanjaro, but neither it nor Marvell was willing to divulge specifics on that front. All we know is that some of OCZ’s contributions stem from the Virtualized Controller Architecture used to manage multiple NAND controllers on its PCIe SSDs.

The base Kilimanjaro module is built on a Mini PCIe card. In addition to the custom controller, the module features a DRAM cache and up to four NAND chips. OCZ says the tiny card will reach up to 50,000 IOps with random I/O and push sequential transfers as fast as 500MB/s.

Those performance figures apply to a single Kilimanjaro module, but the real magic happens when you put a bunch of ’em on a larger card. OCZ has done just that with the Z-Drive R5, which uses a PLX PCIe switch to link multiple modules to a 16-lane PCI Express 3.0 interface. The Z-Drive doesn’t use a RAID controller to distribute data across the modules, instead relying driver software to load-balance across its Kilimanjaro array. This driver is currently optimized for performance, but OCZ says it can also be tuned for redundancy. Since the driver only handles load balancing, it’s not required in single-module configs.

OCZ says the R5 can reach 2.5 million IOps with random I/O and up to 7.2GB/s with sequential transfers. That’s an extreme configuration, of course; Kilimanjaro’s scalable nature should allow for products with a range of performance levels. A more restrained setup that fits inside the 2.5″ form factor typical of modern SSDs can purportedly deliver 100,000 IOps and up to 1GB/s of sequential throughput. Those figures suggest a 2.5″ implementation would use two modules.

The Z-Drive R5 is expected to start selling around the middle of this year. The individual modules could arrive a little bit sooner, but there’s we don’t yet know how soon Kilimanjaro might pop up in configurations more suitable to enthusiast desktops.

Comments closed
    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    And still pales in comparison to a ramdisk. I jus’ wanna plug my DDR3 modules into a daughter board that functions like a drive. D:

    This thing so looks like it will explode though and it probably costs a pretty penny. Revo drives haven’t been entirely reliable from what I’ve heard.

    • phileasfogg
    • 8 years ago

    Geoff, I am almost certain that the edge connector on the R5 card has a total of 8 PCIe lanes, not 16 lanes as stated in your article. A x16-lane edge-connector is a lot longer than the edge-connector shown in the photograph of the R5.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 8 years ago

    “The Z-Drive doesn’t use a RAID controller to distribute data across the modules, instead relying driver software to load-balance across its Kilimanjaro array”

    EPIC FAIL!

      • Vulk
      • 8 years ago

      Actually given current OS limitations, it’s fairly brilliant since it allows TRIM commands to be passed to each drive.

        • just brew it!
        • 8 years ago

        Only if you’re running an OS they’ve written drivers for. Linux users can probably take a flying leap…

          • MadManOriginal
          • 8 years ago

          Right, because why would they bother making drivers for a server OS? This thing is clearly not targeted at enterprise. derp.

            • indeego
            • 8 years ago

            I don’t think the Enterprise wants one-off drives with special drivers.

            Oh I’m sure some will bite, but most will hang-back and let others pounce on the beta and alpha boat.

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            I suppose it may find some application in special one-off high-performance enterprise applications. I can’t really see it being widely adopted though; enterprise users tend to prefer solutions based on industry standards, and are going to be very leery of going with a proprietary solution from a company with little or no prior track record in the enterprise market.

            I’m betting there’s only a Windows driver at product launch. If they release a Linux driver at all, it’ll probably be for Redhat only.

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            OK, poking around on their web site for their existing PCIe products, it looks like they do have some Linux drivers. But they’re marked as “release candidate” (and apparently have been in this state for several months), and are only for a single version of Redhat (6.x). CentOS doesn’t count as a separate distro in this context, since it is just Redhat with the branding stripped out.

            I do give ’em some credit for at least writing a driver for Redhat (albeit one that apparently never made it to official release status, which means any enterprise IT manager worth his salary won’t use it in a production system).

        • ew
        • 8 years ago

        What OS limitations are you talking about? Most support TRIM at this point. It’s the controllers that don’t support it.

          • just brew it!
          • 8 years ago

          The issue is passing TRIM through to the individual drives when you’ve got them RAIDed.

    • DPete27
    • 8 years ago

    I for one am excited about this new technology. Doubling(ish) speed for the next generation of SSD’s seems like a recurring trend, and I’m not complaining. I just wonder how 1GB/s throughput is going to work on a SATA 6GB/s interface for 2.5″ SSD’s?

    As far as OCZ goes, yes, SANDFORCE SSD’s had reliability problems. But it wasn’t just OCZ, it was ALL sandforce drives. I believe OCZ released the first “once and for all” sandforce BSOD bug fix at the end of October though. Once that came out, I promptly bought a Vertex 3 and have had no problems.

    • ew
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]OCZ adds its own special sauce to the equation[/quote<] Is that what they are calling buggy firmware these days?

    • shank15217
    • 8 years ago

    This is certainly a solution looking for a problem..

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 8 years ago

    Is that my Obsidian X-24? Can’t think it runs too many modern games, but the Quake2 benchies should rock.

    • Rakhmaninov3
    • 8 years ago

    I think we need just one CES article from TR dedicated to Booth Babes. Add a little T & A to all that T & L.

    😛

      • wabbit
      • 8 years ago

      You really need to get out more…

        • derFunkenstein
        • 8 years ago

        it’s a super-duper old reference. Since this place is inhabited by people who haven’t been around long enough to remember it (stupid plebeian n00bs) it’s not a surprise he’s getting minused. It’s too bad.

          • kamikaziechameleon
          • 8 years ago

          I wasn’t here but I know what he’s talking about 😛

          • bcronce
          • 8 years ago

          Mmmm… Geforce… HW T&L.

          T&L > T&A.. amirite?

          • leor
          • 8 years ago

          Ah, that was a good t-shirt

        • burntham77
        • 8 years ago

        You really need to condescend less.

      • flip-mode
      • 8 years ago

      There are plenty of websites for pervs already.

      • lilbuddhaman
      • 8 years ago

      What does this article have to do with Transform and Lighting ?

    • MadManOriginal
    • 8 years ago

    Just to get it out of the way and save indeego some typing…

    “OCZ is unreliable crap, their forums and support suck, and no one should buy any OCZ product ever.”

      • indeego
      • 8 years ago

      I just wanted TR to say Hi to OCZ for me.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 8 years ago

        😀 Maybe if you wanted to get Geoff a cold stare and a quick escort out of the suite that would have been a good idea.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 8 years ago

        I miss the green punctuation.

      • Firestarter
      • 8 years ago

      I don’t know, maybe this one will be a [i<]marvel[/i<] of reliability. *rimshot*

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