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Octane: A Portent Of What's To Come From OCZ

OCZ Octane 512 GB SSD Review: Meet Indilinx's Everest Controller
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An SSD's performance is determined by its controller, its firmware, and its flash. The controller is perhaps the most influential of those three variables, and there aren't many 6 Gb/s-capable contenders out there. Faced with a fairly limited pool from which to draw, you can assume that (at least, up until now) today's fastest SSDs leverage logic from Marvell, SandForce, or Samsung.

Of course, we all know that there are more than three brands and models out there, meaning a lot of companies are using the same fundamental components to build a lot of SSDs that offer very similar performance at a range of different prices.

Surely, we have to believe this is at least part of why OCZ bought Indilinx. Why should it have to continue stepping out with SandForce-based drives when its competition gets to do the same thing? Given an eerily common performance story, price isn't what most vendors want to have to use to compete.

OCZ tells us to expect even more Indilinx-flavored SSDs in the future. What happens to the OCZ and SandForce dynamic duo? In the short term, both companies still need each other, which is why the Vertex 3 will continue to serve as OCZ's flagship. However, the company is clearly looking to become a self-sufficient SSD vendor, reducing reliance on third-parties as much as possible. In the long term, expect OCZ to wind down its SandForce-based SSDs as it uses more Indilinx IP.

Octane demonstrates that Indilinx's controllers don't suffer the issues they once did. Granted, there are a couple of niggles that keep us from wholeheartedly endorsing Everest (random performance is still pretty low, and there's an unresolved garbage collection issue that goes unaddressed for now). However, OCZ stands a fair chance of changing many peoples' minds about Indilinx in a single generation of hardware. Perhaps it's able to address our concerns to some extent in firmware. Or maybe there will be a future product that does the trick. Either way, OCZ is at least on a trajectory to emancipate itself from such stark reliance on SandForce's success.

That's kind of an exciting prospect when you consider that Intel and Samsung are the only other SSD vendors putting their own controllers into drives. OCZ has its sights set high, and Octane really signifies a new chapter for the company.

Cost
Market Price
Price Per GB
OCZ Vertex 3 120 GB
$190
$1.58
OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB
$400
$1.66
OCZ Octane 128 GB
$215
$1.70
OCZ Octane 256 GB
$400
$1.56


As a 512 GB product, the way it's priced today, Octane isn't anything to fawn over. Vertex 3s aren't going away anytime soon, and if you're looking to avoid the compression-dependent technology that SandForce uses, there are much better alternatives available for less money that don't force you to compromise random performance.

However, Octane is really a precursor to what will likely become a fierce battle in 2012. By capitalizing on more in-house development, OCZ has more flexibility to push prices down at a faster pace and maintain higher margins. It was just one year ago that SSDs were selling for more than $2 per gigabyte. Today, they're often closer to $1.50 per gigabyte. And with the proliferation of 20 nm NAND from IMFT, those figures will continue spiraling lower. Although Octane's performance isn't particularly notable in light of compelling competition, its meaning to OCZ as a company is far more significant.

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