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Fusion-io discusses MLC SSDs in banks

part of a long running series of articles - Are MLC SSDs Safe in Enterprise Apps?
Editor:- December 7, 2010 - Fusion-io today announced that it has been working closely with Credit Suisse to integrate ioMemory SSDs with its Advanced Execution Services trading platform to improve its data access performance, maximizing the effectiveness of its low latency trading platform architectures.

Editor's comments:- trading banks using SSDs isn't new. So my initial inclination was to ignore this news story. But I'm glad I didn't - because I learned a lot when I spoke to Fusion-io's CEO David Flynn yesterday.

I asked David Flynn - what's your feedback from banks and financial customers about the issue of MLC versus SLC (SSDs) in their critical financial apps. Is it something which they say they have concerns about?

David Flynn's answers surprised me and I hope you find them interesting too.

Re MLC vs SLC concerns in Fusion-io's financial customer base...

David said that their customers don't raise this as a concern. Over 80% of the SSDs that Fusion-io has sold in the last couple of years have been MLC rather than SLC - and he thinks that they probably have a bigger base of enterprise MLC SSDs which has been operating longer in customer sites (upto 3 years) than any other company.

David Flynn said that while MLC poses technical challenges Fusion-io's flash management architecture (some of which I have written about before) provides high data integrity. For example - their SSDs don't lose any data even if entire flash chips fail. That in itself isn't unique - but something new to me was learning that their SSDs do data healing (just like some of the high end RAM SSDs).

He said that - in additional to real-time data integrity checks - their SSDs do a weekly background read, verify, fix and rewrite of the entire flash array to prevent bit rot. (Data can get corrupted in seldom used flash blocks due to charge leakage as well as disturb errors due to other write activities in the same chip. The data healing process ensures that users don't have to over rely on the long term data retention characteristics of the raw flash.)

I asked David Flynn what his view was about data recovery of flash SSDs. He confirmed my guess that most enterprise customers don't need it - because they're doing backups. He also said he didn't recall any cases where their own SSDs had suffered from endurance related burnout.

While on this subject we talked about the advantage of SSD accelerated backup. He said that a general problem for high work load customers using just hard disk storage was that they couldn't extract data in real-time to do backups because their user application performance would suffer.
click here to see collected articles about SSD reliability David Flynn said that a beneficial side effect for many customers who used their SSDs was that they could do backups about 6x faster and for many customers it was viable to do backups while their servers were at peak user loads.
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