OCZ's new SSD controller has four Gen3 lanes, NVMe support

Add another SSD—and a new controller—to the growing list of PCIe units with support for the NVMe protocol. OCZ's CES showcase includes a prototype drive based on an all-new JetExpress chip of the company's own design.

Although the JetExpress controller can be used in Serial ATA SSDs, the fastest implementations will stick to PCI Express. OCZ has equipped the chip with four lanes of Gen3 connectivity, giving it a staggering 4GB/s of bandwidth. Thanks to the low-overhead NVM Express protocol, the JetExpress should make more efficient use of that pipe than it would if it were restricted to AHCI.

Incidentally, the controller's SATA compatibility means the chip is capable of passing AHCI commands. It's unclear whether PCIe implementations can use that protocol to ensure backward compatibility (and hassle-free booting) with older systems.

On the flash side of the equation, the JetExpress has 10 parallel NAND channels. Drives currently in the pipeline will only use eight of them, OCZ says, so I'm curious about what the extra ones are for. Hmmm.

Interestingly, enterprise drives based on the JetExpress can be equipped with dual controllers. The chip was designed for datacenters, and it will hit server-oriented products first, likely in the third quarter of the year. OCZ plans to bring the same silicon down to consumer-grade products, but we don't have a firm timeline on those.

In the meantime, OCZ is rolling out a new SATA SSD dubbed the Vector 180. This drive pairs the current Barefoot 3 M00 controller with Toshiba's latest A19 MLC NAND, but it's more than just a NAND refresh. The Vector 180 is OCZ's first enthusiast-oriented SSD to be available in a 960GB capacity. OCZ has also added onboard capacitance to protect against metadata corruption, presumably due to unexpected power loss, which the company says is the most common cause of RMAs for its drives.

The Vector 180 is scheduled to sample in a couple of weeks. It has a 50GB/day endurance rating and a five-year warranty. OCZ specs the drive for 550/530MB/s sequential transfers and 100k/95k IOps with random I/O.

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