OCZ readying RevoDrive-B

Will act as a hard drive cache

OCZ’S REVODRIVE PCI Express based SSD was something of a surprise when it was announced and it’s a fairly unique product in the market considering its competitive retail price compared to a standard SSD. However, it’s now looking like OCZ is readying a new model called the RevoDrive-B which is yet another PCI Express based SSD, but with an extra trick up its sleeve, it’s got a pair of SATA ports for drive caching.

There have already been some attempts at creating consumer solutions that implement a SSD as a cache for hard drives, but judging by the information posted by Impress PC Watch, the RevoDrive-B is doing things somewhat differently. The RevoDrive-B was actually outed by OCZ’s software partner, NVELO who has designed some clever software that’s meant to be able to predict what data should be stored on the SSD from the hard drives.

Again, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this and Seagate’s Momentus XT hybrid drive claims to offer the same functionality. NVELO’s software is called DataPlex and it runs on the host PC rather than in a custom ASIC as in the case of the Momentus XT. This suggests that it might be possible to use the same software in combination with a standard SSD and a hard drive, although that isn’t clear at this time.

NVELO claims that its solution solves the dilemma of swapping your large hard drive for a small SSD, or running your OS from an SSD and then relying on a slow hard drive for everything else. Of course they do also add the small clause of this requiring “intelligent, adaptive software” and the question that doesn’t get answered is how taxing this software is on the CPU. NVELO did provide a couple of benchmarks using PCMark’s HDD suite and SYSmarks productivity suite.

The test system was a Core i7 920 processor with 4GB of RAM and Windows 7 64-bit, as well as an Intel X25-M G2 SSD, a Seagate Momentus XT and oddly enough a 2.5-inch 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive. The final piece of the puzzle is an unspecified hard drive, a 16GB PCI Express connected NAND module and the DataPlex software.

The SSD easily wins in PCMark, but NVELO’s solution comes in way ahead of the hybrid drive and the hard drive. In SYSmark the NVELO solution is almost neck and neck with the SSD while the hybrid drive and the hard drive are lagging behind, albeit at apparently the same performance level. This all sounds a little bit like Intel’s failed Turbo Memory, albeit with better software to support it. There’s a limitation though, as the SSD cache has to be at least four times as large as the system memory, something that could cause issues if the RAM in the system was ever upgraded.

If this takes off and that’s still a big if, then it looks like we’ll be seeing some kind of mini card type of solutions for notebooks, again similar to Intel’s Turbo Memory. However, for desktop PCs – which rarely have mini card slots – full size PCI Express cards will be used and this is where the RevoDrive-B comes into the picture. It will use MLC Flash and it’s said to be compatible with all standard PC operating systems. The only other details revealed about the RevoDrive-B is that it will be available with a 50GB capacity – which should make it good for up to 12GB of RAM – and that your hard drive will plug directly into it. The card has two SATA connectors, but it’s not clear if this is a pass-through solution to the motherboards SATA connector, or if the RevoDrive-B can handle multiple drives.

Considering that the current 50GB RevoDrive sells for about $260, we wouldn’t expect the RevoDrive-B to sell for less than $300, but that’s just an estimate based on the fact that NVELO is going to want something for its software licenses and the fact that there would be some additional cost of making the new board. This makes for a very expensive system upgrade; at least, unless the price of MLC Flash drops drastically in price before the OCZ launches the RevoDrive-B. It’s an interesting concept and it would be great to have SSD performance from a hard drive, but this is still just a dream for most consumers as the additional cost is just too high for the benefits it brings.S|A

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