Storage Station

A bird's eye view of the data storage industry.

Fusion-io Shipping New Flash-Optimized OS Subsystem

Solid-state server and storage array maker Fusion-io -- whose chief scientist is Steve "The Woz" Wozniak -- is doing some cutting-edge work in the realm of future NAND flash software development.

This week the Utah-based company introduced a new flash-optimized OS subsystem called the ioMemory VSL (for Virtual Storage Layer) for better utilization of NAND flash memory and storage arrays.

It's a new "shelf" of sorts to put future features and processes yet to be developed in the solid-state/spinning disk hybrid storage array.

CEO David Flynn told The Station that the ioMemory VSL is the "first and only subsystem of its kind that combines the benefits of the traditional I/O subsystem [block-level reading and writing] with the benefits of a virtual memory subsystem. In virtualizing ioMemory devices, this brings a 'fusion' of both memory and storage."

Flynn used an analogy. "The DirectX and OpenGL APIs that live inside the operating system encapsulate the accelerator functions of graphics cards. These interfaces are evolving in time as more features become available in the hardware," Flynn told The Station. "Our new VSL is to storage what those APIs are to the graphics world."

It all means an improved set of interfaces to use the features -- current and future -- of I/O memory to its fullest.

The ioMemory VSL considers NAND flash an extension of the overall memory hierarchy and as a new building block for computer hardware and software architecture, rather than confining it only to traditional storage paradigms, Flynn said. The result is a new architecture that provides near-linear performance scaling with very little software/hardware overhead, and improved flash reliability and endurance, he said.

Existing software such as file systems, volume managers, and applications are able to access ioMemory without modification, Flynn said. However, with an advanced set of programmatic interfaces, applications can be adapted to further exploit ioMemory to improve throughput, response times, and reliability features.

The ioMemory VSL is now included in Fusion-io arrays.

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.

Last December, Fusion-io and IBM agreed to work together on NAND flash storage projects. So there's a lot going on at the shop.

Flynn said Fusion-io now has about 1,500 customers and more than 10,000 units being used in the field. "We're actually out-pacing [Dell's] EqualLogic sales," he said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...