Fusion-io software turns servers into shared flash storage

The Fusion ION acceleration software can yield app performance gains of up to 25X

PCIe flash module maker Fusion-io today unveiled software than can combine NAND flash storage capacity in industry-standard servers into a single pool of high-performance network storage.

The company's new Fusion ION acceleration software runs on tier 1 servers that contain Fusion-io's ioDrive modules, allowing them to act as primary data storage targets -- essentially, flash appliances.

Currently, Fusion-io's ioDrive modules act as internal storage capacity for the servers in order to speed up performance compared to what hard disk drives would offer.

Fusion-io's ioDrive PCIe cards come in ioMemory modules (essentially DIMMS) that hold up to 10TB of data in a 1U (1.75-in. high) form factor. The ioDrive modules also come with either lower-performing, lower-cost multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash or higher-end, single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash.

According to David Flynn, co-founder and CEO of Fusion-io, a 1U server using the software can deliver more than one million I/Os per second (IOPS), up to 6GBs throughput and under .06 milliseconds of access latency. "The implication of this is huge," he said. "With just software you can have off-the-shelf servers behave as network storage servers and offering open platforms to customer."

Fusion-io claims its software, working in conjunction with its ioDrive memory modules, can boost application performance from 2X to 25X due to the use of NAND flash versus hard disk drives within the servers.

For example, Fusion-io claims its ION software was tested by "a leading global media and entertainment" company to accelerate a number of key applications, achieving a 25x improvement in SQL Server performance, an 8x improvement in transcoding performance and up to 40x acceleration improvements on a variety of other applications.

"Software-defined solutions are rapidly replacing specialized hardware throughout the datacenter, and Fusion-io has been at the forefront of this transition since our founding," Flynn said. "ION software combines customers' preferred server platforms and ioMemory to deliver greater performance than even dedicated flash appliances, while also improving the efficiency of high performance storage arrays."

The ION software can be used to deliver storage traffic from open server platforms over Fibre Channel, InfiniBand and iSCSI using standard networking protocols.

How it works

Fusion-io's ION software comes with a virtual storage software component, which creates a layer of abstraction that separates the server application from the ioMemory module.

"It treats ioDrive more like memory than a typical drive, so you achieve lower latencies," said Woody Hutsell, senior director of product management for Fusion-io. "Also, [the virtualization software] implements adaptive flashback, a media protection so ioDrives that fail still will not result in data loss. It's essentially a RAID with error correction code. Ultimately, even multiple chips can experience failures and it won't result in data loss."

The ION software has a SCSI target layer that transforms server into a data storage target.

The software automatically discovers any new ioDrives installed in the servers, allowing a system admin to create a RAID pool. Once the pool is created, the user can create volumes and assign them to external storage ports and perform access control.

"So at that point, the server does act like a flash appliance," Hutsell said.

The ION software can manage storage volumes both through a graphical user interface or a command line interface. It also offers other storage management features, including the use of the Simple Network Management Protocol to search for usable capacity, performance monitoring tools and the creation of RAID sets. User can chose JBOD, RAID 0 and RAID 10, according to Hutsell.

Fusion-io also offers a number of other add-on software functions for added cost:

  • A ION High Availability software option that synchronously replicates data between multiple ION systems.
  • And Fusion ION Power Cut Safety, which ensures that as soon as a data write is delivered to an ioMemory module, it is committed to flash and not RAM, so if power is cut, the data remains.

Fusion's ION acceleration software will be available in October with a suggested retail price starting at $3,900.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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