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Startup Fusion-io flashes its card

Fusion-io came out of stealth today with a PCIe flash card designed to give off-the-shelf servers SAN-like performance.

Fusion-io calls its product the ioDrive, and it’s NAND-based storage that comes in 80 Gbyte, 160 Gbyte and 320 Gbyte configurations. Fusion-io CTO David Flynn says the startup will have a 640 Gbyte card later this year. The ioDrive fits in a standard PCI express slot, shows up to an operating system as traditional storage and can be enabled as virtual swap space.

Flynn said its access rates are more comparable to DRAM than traditional flash memory.

“This is an IO drive, we do not consider it to be a solid state disk,” Flynn said. “It does not pretend to be a disk drive. It does not sit behind SATA or a SCSI bus talking SATA or SCSI protocol to a RAID controller. It sits directly on the arteries of a system.”

Fusion-IO bills its card as high-performance DAS that can reduce the need for more expensive SAN equipment. Fusion-io prices the drives at $2,400 for 80 Gbytes, $4,800 for 160 Gbytes and $8,900 for 320 Gbytes.

“Dropped into commodity off the shelf server, you have something that can outperform big iron,” Flynn said.

Not even the Fusion-io execs see their cards as SAN competitors, though. If it finds a place in storage, it will be as a way to run applications that require high performance — such as transactional databases or digital media – on servers that aren’t attached to SANs.

“It’s a way of extending the life of servers with direct attached storage,” said analyst Deni Connor of Storage Strategies Now. “I don’t see it as a replacement for Fibre Channel SANs, but it may prevent companies from going to Fibre Channel SANs as quickly.”

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