Storage

PCI Express-based flash storage disk debuts

Utah-based start-up Fusion-io has just launched its first product, the ioDrive. It is a PCI Express-based flash storage card that can pack hundreds of gigabytes of flash storage into a single board, potentially replacing banks of high-performance hard drives.

Utah-based start-up Fusion-io has just launched its first product, the ioDrive (pdf). It is a PCI Express-based flash storage card that can pack hundreds of gigabytes of flash storage into a single board, potentially replacing banks of high-performance hard drives.

According to the company, the ioDrive will be start at 80 GB and scale to 320 and 640 GB next year. Plans for a 12 TB card is also in the works by the end of 2008. Housing multiple cards in a single computer for extra performance and fault tolerance will also be possible.

Just how fast is the ioDrive? According to Fusion io's CTO, David Flynn, the card has 160 parallel pipelines that can read data at 800 megabytes per second and write at 640 MB/sec. In a benchmarking test with a worst case scenario of 4k blocks and eight simultaneous 1 GB read and write operations, the ioDrive clocked in at 100,000 operations per second.

“That would have just thrashed a regular hard drive,” said Flynn.

If you're thinking of using this setup as part of the ultimate home-gaming rig, think again. According to TG Daily:

So how much will these cards cost? Flynn told us that the company is aiming to beat $30 dollars a GB, something that should seem very cheap to large corporations...

Figure out the math yourself.

On the enterprise-end though, such a drive might just make sense. If Fusion-io can get pull a 1.2 TB hat-trick by 2008, they might be able to address a performance/capacity niche that current generation of SAS drives might not be able to match.

Does your company have the need for such a high performance drive like the ioDrive?

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

8 comments
Justin James
Justin James

What's the throughput like though? Flash based storage always can do more operatiosn per minute (no moving parts = no seek time) but the read/write speed tends to suffer; as a result, Flash drives offer better performance for many small I/O operations (like database access of individual records, and swap file caches [thus, Vista's "Ready Boost" functionality]) and disk base storage is faster for long, continuous I/O operations (multimedia access, database reporting). J.Ja

jerrylee3
jerrylee3

Drop the cost some and we have the very real possibility of flash based laptops...

danlanier
danlanier

Eventually to have the technology )with adequate price point) to move totally away from mechanical interface? Wow, wouldn't that be great! Can you imagine how fast a workstation would perform. That would be one cool gaming machine too! Goes off to day dream.... terrabytes of flash...

paulmah
paulmah

Does your company have the need for such a high performance drive like the ioDrive?

paulmah
paulmah

Hi there, Actually, I did note the read and write speeds down in my original post. Read = 800 MB/sec and write is 640 MB/sec. That was the tipping factor that resulted in my decision to post this story :) Consider this: a top-of-the-line Sony 'Ready Boost' capable flash drive I saw recently comes with a rated 28 MB/sec read, and about 24 MB/sec (I think) write. That is nowhere near what this card is capable of delivering. Do take a look at the PDF which I linked in the original article. You're notice that the 800 MB/sec is maintained even for 8KB random file reads - which slowed down an Intel SSD from 20 MB/sec sustained to just 2 MB/sec. Regards, Paul Mah.

Justin James
Justin James

Flash is a winner for laptops due to reduced power consumption (no moving parts) and reduced cooling (again, no moving parts) which results in even more reductions in cooling. But for workstations? It depends on what you're doing. I like the hybrid drive approach, and let the OS/file system determine which storage medium is best depending upong the nature of the file itself (swap file on Flash, MPEGs on disk, etc.). Flash is *not* inherently superior to disk across the board, but it does have many advantages in many use cases! J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Just because something is marked "Redy Boost" simply means that it meets minimum speed requirements, nothing more. And of course this is faster than any "Ready Boost Capable" device you can find, because USB (even USB 2.0) is *significantly slower* than PCI. That being said, *nowhere* does it say that "Ready Boost Capable" devices must be USB Flash devices! While those stats are indeed insanely fast, how do they compare against disk based storage for *real* "sustained" I/O? 8KB random reads are not "sustained". They are the type of I/O that Flash is better than disk for. What about 20 MB straight through access? How does it look then? J.Ja

paulmah
paulmah

You're right that Ready Boast Capable does not necessarily mean USB Flash devices. Pertaining to how the ioData compares against disk based storage: For sustained 8KB random reads: ioData: 800 MB/sec Ultra SCSI: 2 MB/sec SAS: 2MB/sec 2 GB/s FC: 2MB/sec Samsung SSD: 2MB/sec For sustained 'straight' reads: ioData: 800 MB/sec Ultra SCSI: 96 MB/sec SAS: 96MB/sec 2 GB/s FC: 96MB/sec Samsung SSD: 57MB/sec As I mentioned, take a look at the PDF I linked to in the article. The information is all there. Regards, Paul Mah.