OCZ Releases Arowana SSD Firmware – Tests Show Big Upgrade For 34nm Indilinx Barefoot Drives

PCMARK VANTAGE TESTING (CONT’D)

The Agility on 1.7FW gets a respectable 28,210. On Arowana 3.55, the drive ends up with a relatively scorching 38,421 in the trace-based test. When broken down by category, the reasons for the increased score become more clear:

This is a clean sweep by the new 3.55 firmware. Every category of the trace is higher, and not by a small margin. The application loading scenario alone increases by 78%, and that’s certainly a difference you would notice. The average increase in category performance is over 37%! And that translates into a 37% increase in total score, from 28,210 to 38,421.

As you can see, the difference is much deeper than can be revealed with just a few benches. There’s over 10,000 points separating the drive on 1.7 FW versus the new Arowana 3.55 FW. A truly substantial difference, and one which can certainly be said to be worth the few moments to upgrade a compatible Vertex, Agility, or Solid2.

WHAT DO YOU GIVE UP?

Unfortunately, you do lose some vital SMART information with the switch. Indilinx Barefoot drives had some of the most comprehensive SMART data around, chocked full of relevant and informative attributes. Arowana brings similar bare-bones information as OCZ’s Octane series. This loss will be felt by many longtime users, and it is unfortunate that OCZ didn’t feel that exposing useful SMART data was important.

FINAL THOUGHTS

OCZ should be applauded for bringing this update to users and for following through on a promise made over 10 months ago. It has been a while in the making, but after seeing the results, the wait was worth it. Arowana FW won’t make your Vertex or Agility perform like a new SATA III drive, but it does bring substantial and tangible performance improvements to end-users. Considering that the first Barefoot drives shipped back in early ’09, the improvement from then to now is exceptional.

The original Indilinx-controlled Barefoot SSDs were aimed at enthusiasts, and enthusiasts are always looking for a way to get better performance. This update does deliver that, and longtime Vertex and Agility owners looking for more speed will certainly appreciate the option to upgrade.

There are two lessons that can be learned from Arowana. First, firmware is perhaps the single most important part of the SSD performance equation. Second, two drives with similar benchmark numbers can, in fact, perform quite differently… even on the same hardware.

Perhaps OCZ should ditch the unfortunate moniker Arowana FTL and instead choose Arowana FTW, because it’s certainly more appropriate. Either way, it does feel more like a thank-you to loyal Barefoot users, one that is sure to be much appreciated. Now, if they could just do something about that SMART data.

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It always blows my mind how just some software rewriting can handedly increase performance of hardware you’ve already purchased. Kudos programers, kudos to you