The OCZ Vertex 2 Conspiracy: Lost Space, Lost Speed?

Lost Performance: Not Just A Figment Of Your Imagination

There are a number of reasons why 25 nm asynchronous flash can be slower than 3x nm flash. These reasons don’t apply to synchronous flash—the stuff you’ll see on the upcoming Vertex 3 drives from OCZ.

The number one reason that performance drops is the need for more error correction on the 25 nm node. This is related to the fact that the smaller geometry sustains fewer program/erase cycles. Error correction imposes processing overhead, though. I have to assume that OCZ, on its 25 nm-based SSDs, has to bolster the error correction it’s doing, impacting performance. Basically, near-term the company is taking a hit so that 5000 P/E cycles out, when uncorrectable bit read errors become a concern, SandForce’s RAISE technology can cope with and fix them.

The conclusion here isn’t completely random. While working on my benchmark results, I shared some of what I was seeing with OCZ. I noticed that streaming performance in Iometer was consistent from the 34 nm to 25 nm drives. It was only once we started hacking around with the 4 KB random reads/writes and benchmark patterns that performance dropped. Well, that’s precisely where processing overhead would come into play with an architecture like SandForce’s, which tries to work as efficiently as possible by mashing data together and sending it sequentially.

The company promised to supply an experimental firmware, which is by no means ready for public consumption, but is designed to address my concerns. I don’t have specifics on what the firmware does other than alleviate processing overhead a bit. But my guess is that it either dialed back the aggressive ECC or optimized the new algorithm being used. The optimization in the first iteration is relatively minor, but OCZ claims there is a lot more it can do to narrow the performance gap we’re observing currently. Do I think it's a coincidence that SandForce's second-gen controller family is also getting more advanced ECC? Not at all.

Now, consider the alternative to what OCZ is doing. Another vendor building SandForce-based drives using 25 nm flash (this is going to include everyone soon, by the way; the shift is happening industry-wide) can maximize performance today without bolstering ECC—risking outright drive failures in the future. Of course, we can’t put that to the test until our 25 nm drive see more extraneous use. But it's a scary thought. Serve up better numbers today, cross your fingers, and hope failures don't become epidemic three years from now? I certainly hope not.

What I do have currently is a run-down of a true apples-to-apples comparison: two 120 GB Vertex 2s, each with 16 chips, representing the 34- and 25 nm-based NAND devices.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • have a letter posted on the website that they will not be going to 25nm as the drives life cycle is less than half that of a 3*nm drive. Also the performance is not there.
  • cangelini have a letter posted on the website that they will not be going to 25nm as the drives life cycle is less than half that of a 3*nm drive. Also the performance is not there.
    Depending on supply of 34 nm NAND, that's probably not a sustainable position to take. IMFT isn't going to decide to shift back to 34 nm.

    At the risk of contradicting myself, Intel will be using 34 nm NAND on its next-gen 6 Gb/s Elmcrest drives. It's not like the flash isn't disappearing entirely, but the vendors making the switch seem to be motivated largely by cost-cutting reasons.
  • Nicely done Mr. Angelini; however, I still think OCZ pulled a nasty car-salesman tactic on their newest 25 nm NAND SSD products, and as such will be looking elsewhere to purchase any future SSD. Blaming resellers or other sources for the SKU is an incompetent way of deflecting fault and has made them look even more silly.
  • cangelini
    Thanks radiovan. Like I mentioned in the story, we'll have to see if companies like Corsair and Patriot are able to get their upcoming renamed SKUs onto Newegg, Tigerdirect, Zipzoom, etc.
  • binoyski
    Ok, but when will we be able to buy ssd's that are $100 @ 1TB capacity?
  • 1.29 nice... pity that ocz only documents 1.28 for the moment.

    And then again why not update the 25nm to 1.29 too?

    But I guess consistency is not always wished when trying to demonstrate something
  • nebun
    binoyskiOk, but when will we be able to buy ssd's that are $100 @ 1TB capacity?in about 10 years or so....that's a very big maybe
  • dconnors
    Don't lie, Chris. We all know you still have (and love) that little Miata.
  • yose3
    binoyskiOk, but when will we be able to buy ssd's that are $100 @ 1TB capacity?
    when you throw a shoes to bush again meaby lol
  • Reynod
    It is all about profit.

    The real reason is that going to cheaper flash with a 3000 cycle life to reduce the total cost of production (and therefore increase profit) means ... increasing the amount of redundant memory to replace the flash that dies due to wear ... and that process means better error correction is required to achieve that ... therefore performance is effected.

    Chris ... I got it into one sentence ... albeit a horrible one.

    Nice article mate.