Fusion-io Dominates the Flash Landscape

Posted: 22 Aug 2011   By: Charlie Holmberg
Fusion-io Dominates the Flash Landscape

Wikibon’s David Vellante recently published the article, "Fusion-io: A Flash Bird of a Different Feather." In this article, David writes how the world is catching on to using PCIe as a better way to connect to the host, and how Fusion’s Virtual Storage Layer (VSL) technology is helping it rise above the competition. As David put it, “It’s all about latency . . . [and] the Fusion-io approach . . . puts flash at a much higher capacity (and cheaper) extension to memory, right next to the processor with latency that is similar . . . to DRAM.”

David describes a four category “flash landscape”—solid state disk, flash as primary storage, flash as cache, and flash as a memory extension.

1. "Flash as Memory Extension – This highest layer provides direct memory access and eliminates the latencies not only of spinning disk but also of traditional disk protocols. Unlike Flash as cache there are no cache misses. People often say “so what, if I get a 95% cache hit rate what’s the difference?” Ask Facebook. Ask Apple.  Fusion-io writes are [automatic], meaning you only have to do writes once, unlike traditional disk protocols which must endure a litany of signaling and write verification overheads.”

Fusion-io is the only flash memory extension on the market. As David says, Fusion-io “has a huge lead on the competition. Its advantage is in fusing hardware and software to address large data intensive problems. Fusion-io is trying to set the new standard platform for how applications will be developed.”

2. "Flash as Cache – This approach helps specific applications and use cases. It’s good for virtualized systems and helps legacy apps run faster (e.g. Oracle databases, Exchange, etc.). Examples include LSI CacheCade, Oracle and IO Turbine (which Fusion-io just purchased). But this is a narrow solution, not designed for tomorrow’s applications. Nice but not game changing.”

Fusion’s low latencies make it the fastest caching device available. ioTurbine allows ioMemory to drop into VMware environments, be configured to guarantee performance to virtual machines, and work seamlessly with vMotion.

3. "Flash as Primary Storage – Now this layer to me is interesting. The idea here is to make an all-flash device (e.g. SolidFire) and target it at primarily block storage from IBM, EMC, HP and also some file apps and deliver consistent quality of service. This is very compelling to cloud service providers who can enable new applications and charge customers for QoS. Very disruptive to the block-based, high-end storage guys. Think of this as Elastic Block Storage for the enterprise.”

VSL gives Fusion-io the ability to emulate block storage while offering low latency, memory-like performance with near-linear scalability. We have a number of relationships with third-party vendors that demonstrates this, including DataCore Software, GridCentric, and RNA Networks.

4. "Solid State Disk – it’s mimicking disk drive form factors and function using flash. Nice idea. It reminds me of when IBM introduced its RAMAC disk array (the second time around). It had an old, outdated controller architecture that was running out of gas so it purchased disk ‘bricks’ with cache from Xitel and put them in a subsystem to extend the life. Think of this approach as putting lipstick on a spinning disk pig.”

David clearly sees that Fusion-io provides a new memory tier, not storage.  Storage is best left to hard disks. When your data is needed by applications running your business, the low latency we deliver makes Fusion-io the best accelerator on the market.

Charlie Holmberg

Technical Writer
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