Fusion-io takes its flash cards for Web giants to smaller companies

Fusion-io has taken the flash storage cards it’s been making for its biggest customers and turned them into products that almost any company can buy.

The new product, called Fusion ioScale, is based on the same design that Fusion-io makes in the thousands for major Web companies that build their own data center equipment. The company wants to offer that so-called hyper-scale technology to smaller companies, such as cloud startups, that may need as few as 100 of the cards. Those small companies may be the cloud giants of the future, said Rick White, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Fusion-io.

Fusion-io will demonstrate Fusion ioScale on Wednesday at the Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara, California, running on Facebook servers. Facebook, which kicked off the Open Compute Project in 2011, is one of Fusion-io’s biggest customers. Other vendors at the event will also be showcasing the product, according to White. The product will be available immediately.

Fusion-io positions its flash-based cards, which plug right into the PCI Express slots of servers, as a faster and more efficient alternative to other fast storage media such as SSDs (solid-state disks). A Fusion ioScale card can be equipped with as much as 3.2TB of capacity, allowing a small-form-factor server to scale up to 12.8TB or more, the company said. The minimum per card is 450GB.

The product starts at $3.89 per gigabyte, and the price goes down with volume, White said. At the scale of a major Web company, it’s cheaper than using SSDs with a RAID controller, while on a smaller scale, it costs the same, he said. But Fusion ioScale is faster, more power-efficient and more reliable than SSDs, White said.

Like the parts that the company makes for its biggest customers, Fusion ioScale is based on the same type of PCI Express card that Fusion-io makes in high volume for use in workstations. But it has a special controller designed for hyper-scale computing, which can be tuned for specific traffic patterns, self-healing functions and other settings suited to the company’s own operations.

“They have very specific requirements that you wouldn’t have in a workstation, and that actually you wouldn’t have in an enterprise,” White said.

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