OCZ invents drive interface 3X faster than SAS

The new protocol is aimed primarily at high-performance computing applications

OCZ Technology, today unveiled a proprietary drive interface called "High-Speed Data Link" (HSDL) that's expected to boost I/O for solid-state drives (SSDs) in high-performance computing environments.

OCZ said it developed HSDL because it was "unsatisfied" with existing interface options, such as serial ATA (SATA) and serial-attached SCSI (SAS), which are too slow and create a bottleneck between systems and their drives. HSDL, OCZ claims, is capable of running up to 20Gbit/sec of data bandwidth per channel.

HSDL is an open standard and allows other devices to leverage its high-speed internal connection. OCZ said it is currently working with equipment manufacturers for mass HSDL adoption; in the meantime, single port adapter cards will ship with every HSDL solid-state drive such as the company's upcoming 3.5-in "IBIS" SSD. Quad-port cards for multiple drive configurations will also be available to clients seeking even greater storage and bandwidth, OCZ said.

The HSDL protocol would be more than three times faster than 6Gbit/sec SAS and six times faster than today's 3Gbit/sec SATA II. While conventional hard disk drives can't even saturate 1.5Gbit/sec SATA, SSDs with up to 10 I/O channels are easily able to fill 3Gbit/sec pipes.

OCZ said it felt the need for the proprietary protocol in anticipation of its launch of the 3.5-in IBIS drive, which is aimed at the high performance computing marketplace.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said it isn't unusual for a vendor to step away from standards if industry standard interfaces pose bottleneck issues for a company's technology.

"Realize that this will likely be in a relatively small number of very high performance servers and while this will lock in OCZ if the performance benefits are as good as they suggest..., buyers for this class of performance may be willing to take that risk in exchange for the added speed," he said.

While OCZ's high-performance drives are likely to be costly, that's typically not a problem for its intended audience: enterprise-class data centers. "So while there is clearly a risk, this market may care less about the risk than they do about the performance benefits that result, and that is OCZ's ... bet," Enderle said.

Ryan Petersen, CEO of OCZ Technology, said HSDL channels can be combined for maximum bandwidth to increase productivity levels in both consumer and enterprise applications.

"Designed for both high-performance computing and enterprise storage applications, our new High Speed Data Link interface addresses this issue and revolutionizes data storage by significantly outperforming other current interfaces delivering performance at levels that saturate most CPU busses," he said.

OCZ did not immediately offer a timeline for when it would be rolling out products with the HSDL interface.

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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Tags Configuration / maintenanceOCZ Technologystoragestorage hardwarehardware systemsData Center

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