OCZ Discusses First Completely In-house Indilinx Controller

Posted on July 19, 2012 8:52 PM by Rob Williams

During OCZ’s quarterly earnings call CEO Ryan Petersen let word out about OCZ’s future SSD plans, and a surprising amount of detail regarding its next controller.

“Now, moving on, let me take a short – give you a short update on our product development front. I think it’s important to point out that we’ve recently gave out our next generation Barefoot 3 controller and expect to receive sample silicon back from our foundry partner TSMC in coming weeks.

And as such, we expect to begin sampling SSDs on this controller in the August to September timeframe. We expect to have SSD sales related to Barefoot 3 in the third fiscal quarter.

Initial specifications indicate that Barefoot 3 will support a significant performance increase over our current products and as its primary IT blocks are now licensed from a third party, it provides additional incremental cost benefits to OCZ. The Barefoot 3 controller utilizes our internally designed Aragon 400 Megahertz 32-bit processor, which for Barefoot 3 was implemented in TSMC’s 65-nanometer GP process.

The Aragon core is the world’s first SSD optimized processor and supports an SSD specific risk instruction set, allowing most instructions and branches to be executed in a single cycle.

When implemented in SSD controller, this gives the core a much higher performance than when using an off-the-shelf embedded safety field. And this design opens a world of new possibilities for game changing SSD solutions as it supports unprecedented levels of processing power.”

As SSD aficionados are aware, OCZ has been utilizing Marvell controllers with specially designed Indilinx firmware in its current SSD lineup ever since the OCZ Octane, and more recently the Vertex 4. Now at last it appears OCZ is eagerly readying an almost fully in-house SSD. Petersen does state that some parts of the controller silicon are still licensed from third parties, but that would still be a large improvement over licensing the entire controller!

More intriguing still are the details regarding the Aragon core of the Barefoot 3 controller. Instead of being a generic processor (Marvell and other controllers typically use one or two ARM cores) Petersen states Aragon was specifically created and tuned for SSD instruction set processing, and that this is behind some of the large performance gains seem with the Barefoot 3 controller over current SSDs. Core clockspeed will remain unchanged at 400MHz though, doubtlessly to keep its power consumption in check.

As Barefoot 3 has reached the tape out stage, short of any last minute problems we can expect to see the controller entering the market this year, and OCZ does mention sampling SSDs based on Barefoot 3 around September. We could very well see OCZ launching the Vertex 5 before the end of this year, although it sounds like OCZ may even be considering offering the Barefoot 3 to other SSD manufacturers as well.

The original Indilinx Barefoot controller was the first real challenger to Intel’s own SSD controller and helped kick off the controller wars that followed. With such a long history behind it Barefoot 3 should be an exciting launch indeed. And thanks to OCZ’s and Indilinx’s experience in SSD manufacturing we have the potential to finally see a high-performance, unblemished, and stable controller launch later this year. With performance claimed to exceed current SSDs (granted most of which utilize controllers that haven’t changed for over a year) the introduction of Barefoot 3 controllers will be exciting to see.

Kudos to Bright Side of News* for the catch! 

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