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Fusion-io Pushes Data Centers Toward Flash Storage

Fusion-io believes ioScale will help large Web companies shift to all-flash data centers.

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The old phrase "Speed Kills" doesn't apply to Silicon Valley, where speed is essential for survival in today's tech industry. Speed is a way of life, or perhaps a way to avoid being run over.

"We live in a world where nobody likes to wait," explained Gary Orenstein, Fusion-io's senior VP of product, in a video interview with InformationWeek's Valley View recently. "Whether it's the e-commerce that we conduct online, the content that we consume over the Internet, or simply sharing photos with friends. We all want everything to go faster."

Toward that end, Fusion-io, a maker of flash-based storage products, launched ioScale at the Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara, Calif. on Wednesday. Designed for "hyperscale companies" -- companies like Facebook and Google that rely heavily on large and growing data centers -- ioScale cards are storage units for data center applications that offer up to 3.2 terabytes of NAND-flash memory in a single half-length PCI slot.

Facebook has been using ioScale at its data centers prior to the product's general release. Now every organization that aspires to be "hyperscale" can join the fun.

[ Want more on Fusion-io? Read How Fusion-io Makes The World's Data Go Faster. ]

Fusion-io also offers enterprise-oriented products, like its Fusion ioDrive. In contrast to "hyperscale companies," enterprises still rely on more traditional storage options, with solid state storage used as needed -- for speed-critical applications or caching, for example -- rather than across the board. And when they turn to products like ioDrive, they're looking for qualities like endurance and write speed more than read speed, at which ioScale excels.

While flash-based storage still costs significantly more than hard disk storage -- 32 times more on average per GB in 2011 than hard disk storage, according to Royal Pingdom -- hard disks don't perform nearly as well. So companies that require performance are looking to solid state options, because the price is worth it.

As a result, Fusion ioScale isn't so much competing with hard disk storage as it is with other solid state storage products. But Fusion-io claims its approach -- eliminating bottlenecks between flash memory and the host processor -- delivers superior performance.

Ajay Nilaver, senior director of product management at Fusion-io, said in a phone interview that traditional SSDs are deployed with a RAID controller. This sort of architecture, he said, essentially causes a lot of latencies. "At Fusion-io, we have the industry's highest capacity solution with a single controller," he said. Dense capacity, he said, translates into savings in power and cooling, in data center rack space, in simplicity and in reliability.

Servers that support the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEIF) can boot from Fusion ioScale, thereby eliminating the need for RAID controllers or other computing infrastructure in confined data center racks. ioScale devices rely on a specialized controllers and do away with legacy conventions like writing data twice to assure its integrity.

Fusion ioScale starts at $3.89 per GB and decreases with volume purchases. The storage cards can be configured to provide a small server with 12.8 TB or more, the company said.

Nilaver said that a number of Fusion-io's customers are moving to all-flash data centers and that he's confident the trend will continue.

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