Fusion-io Greases I/O Skids With ION Software-Defined Storage

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2012-08-01 Print this article Print

The new software runs on standard x86-based servers, can deliver 1 million I/Os per second -- with up to 6Gb/s throughput -- and works inside the cache in shared ioMemory data acceleration appliances.

Solid-state storage hardware maker Fusion-io took a strategic step into the software world Aug. 1 when it unveiled a new data greaser called an ION Data Accelerator.

The new software runs on standard x86-based servers and works inside the cache in shared ioMemory data acceleration appliances.

Fusion-io CEO David Flynn told eWEEK that installed on a dedicated 1U-size, NAND flash-based server, the ION accelerator can deliver more than 1 million I/Os per second -- with up to 6 Gbps throughput and under 0.06 millisecond latency.

It doesn't matter which connectivity already exists in the data center; ION delivers offer this performance over Fibre Channel, InfiniBand and iSCSI using standard protocols. ION will run on data center configurations that include JBOD (just a bunch of disks), RAID-0, and RAID-10 modes plus spares, Flynn said.

ION can be used on a system as small as 365GB and scales out to cover 20TB-plus of capacity, using either multi-level (MLC) or single-level (SLC) NAND flash, Flynn said. ION accelerator is a godsend for cloud -- and other enterprise -- applications that need access to shared data and that can get tripped up in throughput, Flynn said.

First Wave of Software-Defined Storage

"This is the first wave of what we're calling software-defined storage," Flynn told eWEEK. "Storage networking is probably the last sore-thumb holdout for a real update in the data center. Storage networking is mechanical. In the past, enterprises have always looked to big companies like EMC to provide the heavy hardware to solve this. Now they don't have to. All the power in ION is embedded in the NAND flash memory, which can run anywhere."

Fusion-io is best known for two things: making ultra-fast, NAND flash-based PCIe cards that fit into network interface slots in standard servers, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who is the company's chief scientist.

Fusion-io's main product, ioDrive, was the first direct-attached, solid-state server storage array to use PCI-Express, or 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 disk storage array, only with much faster read/write performance and much less power draw.

Most IT shops, if they use NAND flash, utilize it in purpose-built solid-state drives. Fusion-io's angle is that its units plug into the same sockets as hard disk drives and are much faster. For example, the company claims ioDrive is capable of 120,000 random read/write IOPS€”about 100 times faster than a typical Serial ATA drive.

In addition to creating the PCIe card, Fusion i-o developed its own software to run on the PCIe device. The release of ION amounts to a breakout of that software to run on standard servers.

PCIe Background

PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) was introduced by Intel in 2004. It is a computer-expansion card standard based on point-to-point serial links, rather than a shared parallel bus architecture, and is designed to replace the older PCI, PCI-X and AGP standards.

PCIe has graduated from good idea, to promising technology, to trend, and now to near-standard status in the last three years. Facebook, for one example, uses an unspecified large number of Fusion-io's fast storage arrays in its data centers.

Fusion-io, based in Salt Lake City, went public in June 2011. Pricing for ION is set at $3,900 per server instance, Flynn said.

Chris Preimesberger is Editor for Features and Analysis at eWEEK. Twitter: @editingwhiz

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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