OCZ releases its first hybrid drive, a 1.1TB rocket

The new RevoDrive Hybrid uses PCIe interface and offers up to 910MB/sec throughput

OCZ Wednesday introduced its first hybrid drive, the RevoDrive Hybrid, which combines 100GB of NAND flash memory with a 1TB hard disk drive along with a high-speed PCI Express (PCIe) interface.

OCZ has separated itself from the only other competitor in the hybrid drive market, Seagate, by offering 25 times more NAND flash capacity and a vastly faster interface.

The company also claims the drive can achieve up to a 910MB/sec sequential read rate, or 120,000 I/O per second (IOPS) using 4K random writes for high transactional workloads. By comparison, Seagate's hybrid drive offers an average read rate of 83.7MB/sec. 213MB/sec.

However, a more appropriate comparison would be against Fusion-io's ioCache adapter card, an all-NAND flash product for server I/O acceleration.

The drive is targeted for use in workstations and for people working with high bandwidth applications like video production, as well as gamers.

The OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid

While Seagate has been selling Momentus hybrid drives for the past couple of years, the company uses a 3Gbit/sec SATA interface and offers only 4GB of flash capacity to act as a cache to increase read/write performance.

PCIe technology offers throughput of up to 128Gbit/sec, while SATA tops out at 6Gbit/sec today.

Seagate's hybrid drive, which offers up to 500GB capacity, has struggled in the marketplace.

The first Seagate version did not include enough flash to sufficiently increase performance while the second version experienced software problems that also hampered performance.

Seagate, however, did succeed in boosting performance and getting price into a range -- $113 to $156 -- where the drive could compete against traditional hard drives.

Intel also plans to ship a hybrid drive, but its product has yet to materialize.

OCZ claims the RevoDrive Hybrid is the first "real" available hybrid drive because it's using enough SSD "truly provide the performance of an SSD with the capacity of HDD."

OCZ had alluded to its plans to build a hybrid drive after acquiring NAND flash controller maker Indilinx earlier this year.

At the time, OCZ said Indilinx's microprocessor technology would allow it to expand its presence in the embedded, hybrid storage and industrial markets. "OCZ will gain substantial intellectual property from Indilinx, including approximately 20 patents and patent applications related exclusively to the business as part of the transaction," OCZ said.

The new RevoDrive Hybrid comes bundled with OCZ's Dataplex caching software which dynamically manages the use of the 100GB of NAND flash so that the most frequently used "hot" data stays on the SSD, while the less frequently used data remains on the larger capacity hard drive.

Like Seagate's software, an advanced caching algorithm on the RevoDrive Hybrid learns user behavior and adapts storage policies for optimal performance for each drive owner.

The hybrid drive also incorporates features of the OCZ's Virtualized Controller Architecture (VCA) 2.0 announced earlier this year.

VCA 2.0 creates a virtual pool of logical units (LUNs) along with offering TRIM command support, which works independently of controller firmware, handling the "garbage collection" overhead. Garbage collection, unique to NAND flash memory, is the process by which old data marked for deletion is erased.

"The RevoDrive Hybrid leverages the best attributes of both solid state and traditional hard drive technology to deliver dynamic data-tiering on a single easy to deploy PCIe storage drive," said Ryan Petersen, CEO of OCZ, in a statement. "Leveraging Dataplex software to efficiently manage frequently accessed data delivers superior performance and capacity, making the RevoDrive Hybrid the ideal solution for high performance computing and media content creation."

The OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid 1TB comes backed by a three-year warranty and carries a suggested retail price of $49.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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