IBM Hooks Up with Wozniak, Fusion-io in OEM Pact for SSDs

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-12-09

IBM on Dec. 9 made a strategic move into the enterprise solid-state storage market, casting its lot with a newcomer -- solid-state server and storage array maker Fusion-io -- and its well-known chief scientist and IT thought leader, Steve Wozniak.

Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, joined Fusion-io as its chief scientist in February 2009, raising awareness of both the company and the SSD market.

On Dec. 9, IBM announced at a New York Stock Exchange event a new OEM agreement that licenses use of Fusion-io's core NAND flash ioMemory technology to become the basis for an SSD storage appliance to be offered exclusively in IBM's System x server line.

The new appliance, dubbed IBM High IOPS Adapter, is aimed at eliminating storage I/O bottlenecks and opening up storage bandwidth for transaction-heavy database applications, such as those used in banking, financial services, scientific research, medical imaging, social media, and online retail.

For example, by utilizing the server-deployed -- the so-called "Tier 0 storage" -- sector known as a Flash Memory Tier, data-heavy graphics and 3-D renderings from medical research can be processed in minutes instead of hours, Fusion-io CTO and co-founder David Flynn told eWEEK.

Additionally, the power and cooling costs of solid-state disks are a fraction of the cost of traditional hard disk storage. Since the High IOPS Adapter is deployed directly in the server, storage rack space requirements can be reduced to zero in some applications, Flynn said.

Fusion-io's main product is the ioDrive -- the first direct-attached, solid-state server storage array that uses PCI-Express (PCIe) connectivity. The ioDrive is small-barely larger than a typical handheld device-that uses advanced NAND flash chip clustering to perform the same functions as a spinning desk storage array, only with much faster read/write performance and with much less power draw.

Flynn told eWEEK that ioDrive is capable of 120,000 random read/write IOPS-about 100 times faster than a typical SATA (serial ATA) drive.

EMC was the first Tier 1 systems maker to offer optional SSDs in its storage arrays back in January 2008. IBM started making Samsung solid-state disks available in May 2009 as an option in its Power Systems servers.

Hewlett-Packard, also a Fusion-io partner, started offering Samsung SSDs as an option in its EVA storage arrays in March 2009 and in its ProLiant Servers in September 2009.

In October 2009, Sun Microsystems introduced its first all-solid-state storage product, the F5100 FlashFire Storage Array, which carries 80 NAND flash modules and provides a whopping 1.8TB of capacity.

Solid state drives, still significantly more expensive than hard disk drives but with a pricing model  that is steadily coming down, use only about half as much electricity and are capable of producing I/O response rates 50 to 100 times faster than conventional HHDs.

Hard disk drives are often run at 40 percent or less of their storage capacity to help maintain consistent performance; SSDs on Power Systems and other servers can be run up to 80 or 90 percent storage capacity with little or no effect on performance.

The new IBM High IOPS Adapter can be purchased through IBM. Pricing information was not disclosed. For more information, go here.

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