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Fusion-io sees comfort level rising in PCIe-based SSDs

While the enterprise solid state drive (SSD) is still growing slowly and no method of using SSDs has moved to the forefront, Fusion-io CEO David Flynn said his company’s Flash-based PCIe cards are making a big splash in a handful of vertical markets.

“We’re growing like gangbusters on revenue and growing our headcount,” he said. “It’s like riding a rocket ship.”

Because Fusion-io is a private company, we don’t really know if the vendor had five times as much revenue in its fiscal year that ended in June as it did last year as Flynn claims. And we don’t know how much revenue that would be. But Fusion-io did have a customer go public today when financial services firm Credit Suisse said it is using Fusion’s ioMemory technology with its trading platform.

Flynn said Credit Suisse is a typical customer in some ways, but not others. He said Fusion-io has other top trading firms as customers but most won’t publicly admit it. Credit Suisse uses Fusion-io’s cards to improve the speed of its computers to determine what stock trades to make and to execute those trades. “People have been using us for trading for three years,” Flynn said.

But Flynn said financial services is only the third largest vertical market among Fusion-io’s customer base, behind Web companies and government agencies. The most commonly run applications are analytical and transactional databases that require caching tiers, messaging for financial transactions and unstructured text search.

“Awareness of SSD technology is maturing,” Flynn said. “We’ve been in production for three years and people are becoming more aware and comfortable with our technology.”

With that awareness and comfort comes more competition for Fusion-io. Vendors such as STEC and LSI, in partnership with Seagate, have SSD PCIe cards that compete with Fusion-io. And industry heavyweights Dell, EMC, IBM and Intel in October initiated a working group to standardize PCIe-based SSDs technology. Fusion-io is among that group, which underscores the value the industry is placing on PCIe SSD cards as well as the increased level of competition.

“They’re bringing PCI express to the drive bay and that’s an admission that we had it right from the start,” Flynn said. “People are recognizing that you have to get the legacy storage infrastructure out of the way if you want to tap into the true potential of NAND Flash. But they’re all three or four years behind us in getting product out.”

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