Samsung Investment in Fusion-io Brings New Attention to SSD Advances in Data Center

Korean IT device giant is investing a substantial -- yet undisclosed -- sum in NAND flash storage newcomer Fusion-io. The two companies also have agreed to jointly explore and develop new uses for SSD devices, founder and CTO David Flynn told eWEEK.

With the announcement Oct. 20 that Korean IT device giant Samsung, which sells more NAND flash than anybody in the world, has made a substantial investment in U.S. enterprise storage newcomer Fusion-io, the solid-state world recorded another noteworthy achievement in the technology's ever-increasing advance into the data center.
No one is venturing predictions that SSDs will completely replace spinning disks any time soon, but more and more solid-state drives are finding permanent residence for specific purposes in all sorts of data centers.
The Samsung/Fusion-io news follows by only a few days Sun's introduction of its first all-solid-state storage product, the F5100 FlashFire Storage Array, which carries 80 NAND flash modules (providing a whopping 1.8TB of capacity) that Sun claims run on only about 300 watts of power. Standard SATA [serial ATA] drives usually require 1,200 to 1,500 watts.
Last month, Hewlett-Packard, which has offered optional solid-state drives for its EVA storage arrays since March 2009, announced recently that is now offering Samsung's 60GB and 120GB SSD drives as an option in its ProLiant G5 and G6 servers. HP also has a partnership with Fusion-io to build a new generation of SSD-based servers; Dell also has a partnership with Fusion-io.
EMC and IBM also have listed SSD options for their own storage arrays since 2008 -- though neither has launched an all-SSD array yet. Pliant, Pillar Data, Hitachi, Compellent, SpectraLogic, Fujitsu, Xiotech, NetApp and several others also are on the SSD storage bandwagon.
Samsung and Fusion-io on Oct. 20 declined to disclose the amount of the investment, but CTO David Flynn told eWEEK it is "substantive." The two companies also have agreed to jointly explore and develop new uses for SSD devices, Flynn said.
Samsung will not have "a presence at the board level," Flynn said. "It doesn't mean a lot for the day-to-day operations. But it sends an important message to our channel and VARs about our future, because one has to recognize that the availability of flash at good pricing is a very big deal. So, relationships like these are important."
"This is a great show of confidence in our financial future, shall we say," Flynn told eWEEK. "It also speaks to the compatibility of our product -- being that it's so out in left field, yet very relevant. It's not what a lot of these big guys saw coming, so it's interesting from that angle as well."
Fusion-io uses flash as its central core for storage. Most vendors use flash as a add-on to their hard disk arrays.
Fusion-io's frontline product, the ioDrive, is the first direct-attached, solid-state server storage array that uses PCIe (PCI Express) connectivity. The ioDrive is small-barely larger than a typical handheld device-and uses advanced NAND flash clustering to perform the same functions as a spinning desk storage array, only with faster read/write performance and with much less power draw.
Quarter-over-quarter sales for Fusion-io products have nearly doubled since the company announced the ioDrive in late 2007, Flynn 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...