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Architecture And Internals

64 PCIe SSDs, 120TB Of Flash And One Stop Systems: The FSA 200 Review

The One Stop Systems Flash Storage Array 200 comes in a 19" rack-mountable 3U chassis built of aluminum (pictured atop the two 2U hosts). The empty chassis is amazingly light and the brunt of its weight stems from the dual power supplies. A snap-on faceplate features a replaceable air filter, fans and the requisite status lights. The front panel also includes four rows of lights along the bottom that indicate the status of the SSDs inside of the canisters, which come into view when we remove the bezel.

Each individual canister features a handle and a locking mechanism that allows easy insertion and removal. We include a picture of the four fully loaded canisters without their exterior shields, but once we install the cover each canister is enclosed completely.

The chassis notably lacks a power button. When the user powers on a host the canisters come to life and any canister not connected to an active host remains in a power-off state.

Each canister supports up to eight half-length full-height (single slot) PCIe 3.0 x16 SSDs. However, only two of the slots near the faceplate are both physically and electrically PCIe 3.0 x16; the remaining six slots only provide x8 connectivity. The front four PCIe SSDs have access to an I/O bracket and are physically x16, but the rear slots are physically x8 and feature "open backs" to accept x16 cards.

The FSA 200 employs custom brackets that secure the SSDs inside the canister to combat vibration and shock, and we also spot an 8-pin auxiliary power connector on the PCB for those rare SSDs that still employ them. Each slot supports up to 75W of power, so for most applications there will not be a need for an auxiliary power connection.

A PLX Technology/Avago PEX8796 PCIe switch resides under a small fan/heatsink emplacement. This 96-lane 24-port switch is responsible for aggregating the 80 total PCIe lanes inside of the canister into the single PCIe 3.0 x16 connection on the rear of the canister. PLX switches are field-proven and mature and employ a number of techniques, such as end-to-end CRC and data path parity, which provide enterprise-class data protection features.

The rear of the canister features the power connections to the left, a guide-pin emplacement in the center, and the custom PCIe 3.0 x16 connector that mates with the backplane inside of the appliance. Ten LED status lights line the front of the canister.

Peering down the canister bays reveals four beige PCIe x16 connections on the backplane. There are rows of slick plastic along the bottom of the enclosure that ensure the canister installation is smooth and snag-free, and we found the latching/locking mechanism to be simple yet durable. The top view of the FSA 200 reveals its 24" depth, which is much shorter than the 2U host underneath.

The copper bus bars, which are bright yellow and black, serve as a simplified and robust power delivery system that reduces internal cabling, thus optimizing the internal airflow and reducing complexity.

The beige connectors mounted provide a direct PCIe x16 connection to additional PLX PEX8796 and PEX8748 switches that reside on the backplane. These switches operate in a variety of configurations, which the chassis determines automatically based upon the cable alignment when the user powers up the appliance. The canisters support hot-swapping, but the overwhelming majority of PCIe SSDs do not, so OSS advises users to assure hot-swapability.