Fusion-io Pushing Performance With New Flash Cache Hardware, Software

Fusion-io, a developer of high-speed Flash memory modules and software for accelerating storage performance, is looking to speed server performance with the introduction of a new Flash-based storage acceleration device.

The company is also looking to expand its direct contact with its solution provider channel partners via sales of the virtualization caching software it received as part of a recent acquisition.

Fusion-io is ramping up production of is new 10-TB ioDrive Octal, a double-wide PCIe device that integrates eight 1.28-TB MLC Flash-based ioMemory modules, said Rick White, co-founder and CMO of the Salt Lake City-based vendor.

With the ioDrive Octal, two modules could be put into many 1U servers, giving them up to 20 TBs of SSD for accelerating high-performance, scalable applications, White said.

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The ioDrive Octal was originally built as a custom project for the Lawrence Livermore and Scandia laboratories, and were originally demonstrated at in 2009, White said.

"We showed 1 million IOPS for the card, with under 50 microseconds latency and over 3 GBs per second bandwidth," he said. "We combined several for 1 TB per second performance, and released it as a research project. Suddenly, we got caught up in a surge in demand for it."

Prior to the ioDrive Octal, customers could get 10 TBs of PCIe Flash storage capacity by combining eight of Fusion-io's ioDrive 2 modules. "Now with the ioDrive Octal, one card provides 10 TBs," White said.

Multiple vendors offer storage appliances which feature large amounts of Flash-based SSD cache, with capacities of up to 30 TBs, White said. The ioDrive Octal, on the other hand, plugs directly into one or more PCIe slots in a server.

"Our card has the capacity of an appliance," he said. "And, unlike an appliance, our card does not need to go through a qualification process. You put it in an HP or IBM or any server, and the customer is already qualified."

And, unlike an SSD, the ioDrive Octal connects directly into a PCIe slot in a server, White said. "So it's treated as a direct-access memory device," he said. "A persistent, high-performance memory tier."

The 10-TB ioDrive Octal is expected to be available in the first quarter of 2012 through server OEMs such as HP and IBM, White said. Pricing has yet to be determined.

Most of Fusion-io's business has traditionally been done via its OEM partners' channels. However, that is changing in the wake of the company's August decision to acquire IO Turbine, a developer of caching solutions for virtualized environments.

Because of that acquisition, Fusion-io has developed a new channel program that establishes its first direct relationship with solution providers, said Ezra Hookano, vice president of channel sales for the storage vendor.

"Until now, our solution providers directly fulfilled business through our OEMs," Hookano said. "We still want our partners to source products through our OEM partners. But we also want to provide marketing funds and other resources to our solution providers in addition to what our OEM partners provide them."

Fusion-io also has several new products, including software products, that are not immediately available through its OEM partners, Hookano said. "So we'll work directly with our partners until our OEMs pick them up," he said.

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Along with the IO Turbine software, Fusion-io is also making new hardware specifically to go with the software as part of a high-performance virtualization caching solution, said Jay Phillips, vice president of virtualization for Fusion-io.

"This opens up the entire virtualization market for us and our partners," Phillips said.

As Fusion-io's OEM partners pick up the new hardware and software, the company will nudge its solution providers to work with those OEMs, Hookano said. However, for partners not certified with those OEMs, Fusion-io will continue to support solution providers directly, he said.