Apex Storage, a new storage company, has released the X21 Expansion Card, which holds up to 21 PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSDs. With the X21, consumers can use the best SSDs for configurations up to 168TB and speeds up to 31Gbps.
Apex Storage is headquartered in Utah, USA. The company is run by Mike Spicer and Henry Hill. Spicer is known for launching a similar expansion card, the Storage Scaler, on Kickstarter two years earlier, holding up to 16 M.2 SATA drives. The only product listed on the Apex Storage site, the X21 appears to be an improved version of the original Storage Scaler. It’s strange that Apex Storage chose PCIe 4.0 for a new device, since PCIe 5.0 SSDs are already available in the retail market.
The 274.2mm long X21 card communicates with the computer via a standard PCIe 4.0 x16 expansion slot. Apex Storage essentially combined two circuit boards with a sandwich design. Support for 21 drives eclipses competitors in this particular area, such as the 8-slot Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus Destroyer 2.
Given the large number of SSDs that can be used with the X21, the card cannot get all the power from a single PCIe 4.0 x16 slot. To do this, Apex Storage has two conventional 6-pin PCIe power connectors. The configuration allows you to use power up to 225 watts. Although the X21 is a passively cooled design, the manufacturer recommends a minimum airflow of 400 LFM for optimal performance.
Apex Storage X21 supports the installation of M.2 2280 form factor drives. Declared support for Intel Optane M.2 SSDs (which the company has discontinued). Apex Storage doesn’t list the controller it’s using, but it does confirm 100 PCIe lanes, which suggests a switch.
In a single card configuration, the X21 provides sequential read and write speeds up to 30.5 Gb/s and 28.5 Gb/s, respectively. Its random access performance is 7.5M read IOPS and 6.2M write IOPS. With multiple cards, the expansion card achieves sequential read speeds up to 107Gbps and write speeds up to 70Gbps. Random access is also accelerated with over 20M read IOPS and over 10M write IOPS. The average access latency is 79 µs and 52 µs for reads and writes, respectively.
With 8TB SSDs, the Apex Storage X21 can provide up to 168TB on a single card. With the release of future 16TB M.2 SSDs, users will be able to get up to 336TB in total. The X21 card supports RAID configurations on Windows and Linux, but the company did not specify the type of RAID arrays. Apex Storage declares enterprise-level reliability, NVMe 2.0 support, advanced EEC, data protection and error recovery. The price and date of the start of sales are not yet known.
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Source: Tom’s Hardware