|see also: -
- editor mentions on StorageSearch.com |
Editor:- January 29, 2014 - The
4th quarter of 2013
- was Fusion-io's 20th straight quarter at the top of the
Top SSD Companies list
- confirming it's still regarded as an uber super leading enterprise SSD
company when it comes to ideas and products.
But it remained an
uncomfortable time for the company's business - as in the 2nd half of 2013 - FIO
continued to report revenues significantly lower than in the year before.
Over and above the organic competitive pressures arising from the
greater competencies of competitors in the growing
PCIe SSD market -
Fusion-io (like some other companies in this market - such as
Stec) had risen high on
a tide supported by too narrow a customer base.
In addition -
Fusion-io had some self inflicted problems of having increased the utilization
efficiency of its products for its biggest customers too much too soon - which
meant they didn't need to keep buying more products. (Fusion-io was simply the
first vendor to hit this rock fast - but it's a factor which will haunt and
trouble all enterprise SSD vendors in various times in the future - as I
discussed in my article -
meet Ken - and the
SSD software event horizonn.)
In this quarter - under the guidance
of new CEO Shane
Robison - Fusion-io looked to me like a company with 2 main missions.
- A corrective action program - to learn how to work as a traditional
business (instead of an investment hungry startup) - and - to focus on the
discipline of extracting more money from a wider base of customers and
thereby increasing revenue (again) - but conditioned by the new discipline
(for FIO) of also aiming to be profitable - sooner rather than later.
- An identity correction program - (which the company was still thrashing
through as I wrote this - and which could take years rather than a few quarters
to resolve) - based on the corporate aspiration to change from being merely
regarded as the leading vendor of enterprise PCIe SSD modules and software
(which is significant enough in itself) - to add the new bold ambition
of also becoming regarded as a leading rackmount SSD systems company.
Editor's comments:- October 2013 - In the 3rd quarter of 2013 for the 19th
quarter in succession - in
the Top SSD Companies
list - Fusion-io was once again the #1 most searched and researched SSD
company by the readers of StorageSearch.com.
In August 2013 - a reader asked me about the current significance of
this - given the company's recent lack of revenue growth.
- I pointed to the proven record of this series which has tracked SSD search
volume in the most influential focus group in the industry for over 6 years -
an indisputedly significant factor which I discussed in the
Q1 2013 edition.
Specifically - with reference to the recent period - and Fusion-io -
there are many narratives which one could attach to this continuing degree of
interest - over and above any temporary random spikes which accompany all SSD
companies when they come into the glare of
investment news or
Among other things - I said "there has been and still
remains a huge amount of interest in understanding what Fusion-io's software
does and for most people in the SSD industry their introduction to
the PCIe SSD concept
came from FIO. You can't understand the (SSD) market and technology
dynamics of enterprise SSD without this (knowing what Fusion-io has done and is
Who's who in SSD?
editor - April 9, 2013
Although the enterprise SSD market
was already picking up steam years before Fusion-io launched its
first ioDrive products in
Fusion-io has done more than any other SSD company before - or since - to
change the way that ALL enterprise servers are sold.
inconceivable that any new enterprise server product line would be designed
and marketed without having some form of factory available flash SSD
acceleration option designed at its heart. Fusion-io is the company which
changed that. And all other enterprise SSD companies now benefit from that
change in business thinking.
That's a huge and disruptive difference
from the earlier
decades of the SSD market when SSD companies had to work hard to
explain to end
users - one at a time - the most probable probable reason why their apps
weren't running fast enough was due to defects in the design and
implementation of traditional computer architecture - which wouldn't be
economically fixed by simply buying more CPUs or playing games with
overprovisioning hard drive
A snapshot overview of what Fusion-io is all about - is to
say that the company is a leading innovator in these market segments:-
In the past year or so Fusion-io has
also become a serious player in the
rackmount SSD market
The company started with a focus on
new dynasty rather
than legacy SSD installations - and it used to say that
FC SANs were old-fashioned
and inefficient - but nowadays FIO itself can pack a powerful punch in
what used to be thought of as these legacy
SSD applicatiuon silos
too - with a particular appeal to
huge "SSD dark
matter" end users - a category of customers for whom it's worthwhile
understanding how to extract every nuance of cost benefit from
analyzing the way their
apps interact with their SSDs.
Where can you find more of my
analysis and commentary about FIO?
Many past quarterly editions
of the Top SSD Companies
- include short articles about what each company was doing in that quarter - and
sometimes these articles relate to the specific strengths and weaknesses of
companies with respect to technology trends.
For example - the
Q2 2012 edition
discussed FIO and other companies in the context of the challenge from
flash and DSP technology - such as that from
place to look is the
and storage news
Having said that - if you just continue scrolling down
this page - then you'll see selected highlights for FIO's SSD market milestones
- extracted from SSD history month by month as it happened without having to
click anywhere else. (That's the same format for hundreds of SSD companies - not
just Fusion-io. It's just that some companies make more waves than others - so
there's more to write about.
Here are some other articles I've written
- which you may find useful too.
Guide to Enterprise SSDs
if Fusion-io sells more
SSDs does that mean Violin will sell less?
what's so very different
about the design of Fusion-io's PCIe SSDs?
Channel SSDs work - and how will they impact PCIe SSDs?
This is an earlier version of Who's who in SSD? - Fusion-io
- dated April 2012
Fusion-io is 1 of over 40 companies
PCIe SSD market, 1
of a handful of companies in the
InfiniBand SSDs list,
has often appeared in the
fastest SSDs list,
and has been at the #1 slot in the
Top SSD Companies List
for more quarters than any other company.
Now this is the point at
which - if Fusion-io were writing this preamble (instead of me) - co-founder
Rick White would
say (as he has often reminded me) that right from the outset when he first
contacted me (while the company was still in stealth mode) he said that his
company was really a software company which does things with flash. So
another important directory you'll find them listed in is
written about FIO many times before - so I'm not going to simply rehash all
that stuff about new
dynasty vs legacy storage here - or the pros and cons of
big vs small SSD
controller memory architecture. Nor will I repeat my analysis of why the
company's ioDrive and
ioMemory really are different to nearly every other type of enterprise SSD
(not just similar
looking PCIe SSDs).
What I'd like you to think about instead
- is that here is a company - which has only been shipping SSDs for 5
years - but which has already made 4 profound changes to the course of
market's 35 year history.This is the short version (in chronological
- persuaded the enterprise server market - to actively promote
- established wide -scale market acceptance for PCIe card enterprise SSDs
- which didn't have traditional HDD interfaces and HDD storage form factors
- showed that there's value in SSD companies (thereby being the prime
catalyst for a string of acquisitions and other funding within the SSD
roping in the
enterprise server market to actively promote accelerator SSDs
- showed that if you invest in enough SSD software - you can change the rules
about what is possible (1st billion IOPS SSD)
hard to overstate just what a great achievement it was when Fusion-io started
to sign up the big server makers in
2009 in a
series of deals which started with HP and soon after went on to include IBM and
a year later Dell too.
Before then server makers had been unwilling
to educate their customers about the possible advantages of SSD acceleration -
because if they thought about it for more than a nanosecond - they feared that
faster servers might lead to less server sales. As long ago as
2003 I predicted that as
soon as any of the big server oems started to promote SSD accelerated servers
- it was inevitable that the rest would have to follow - to prevent their own
CPUs looking bad in comparative benchmarks. But I didn't think it would take
another 6 years to happen.
Although some server oems had offered SSD
solutions before 2009 - they were never promoted as part of the core server
product line - but buried in technical sales lists - to be called upon in rare
situations. Yet out of all the companies which had struggled with the problem
of enterprise user SSD
education for so many years - it was a relatively new entrant to the market
which changed this paradigm forever. FIO didn't invent the solution - but FIO
made it a market reality. In a few more years all new enterprise servers
will be have SSDs inside.
establishing the acceptance of PCIe
included) were surprised by just how dramatic was the market's acceptance of
PCIe SSDs as directly attached speedup storage compared to the long anticipated
alternatives of traditional hard disk compatible SSDs such as
earliest indication that this might become a market defining trend was in
September 2009 - when StorageSearch.com detected that search volume for PCIe
SSDs had overtaken that for 2.5"
SSDs. I said at the time - "This is a tsunami warning event for SSD
vendors addressing the enterprise server acceleration market." At the end
of 2009 - 4 out of the top 10 SSD companies were marketing PCIe SSDs - but the
company which did more than any other to excite users with the benefits of
making this transition was Fusion-io. The logic was compelling. If you're going
to go part of the way to speed up your server with a locally attached SSD - then
you may as well go all the way and ditch the HDD interface latency too - to get
better performance at lower cost.
Every major PCIe SSD competitor I've
spoken to in recent years - has acknowledged the debt they owe to
Fusion-io's marketing for making this part of the SSD market sound so sexy and
helping it grow bigger and faster.
2011 - year of the FIO IPO
2011 - one
of the frustrations I had when writing about the SSD market was how to
communicate to readers the significance of individual SSD companies.
was bad enough that they operated in a niche market - the purpose of which was
difficult for newcomers to understand - but as SSD makers were nearly all (with
exception of STEC)
privately owned companies (or small business units of publicly traded
companies) I could say nothing about how big their revenue was - and how fast
they were growing - even when I had been told these details.
is a convenient measure of how much a company or technology is worth - and in
the first half of 2001 - there was a torrent of speculation about the possible
value of SSD companies triggered by Fusion-io's IPO. Even direct SSD competitors
became the beneficiaries of investors who - attracted by the growth rates in
the SSD market - learned that it might be a somewhere to invest sizable chunks
The thing about historic
market shifts is - that you can easily recognize them when they happen - but
they are hard to accurately predict in advance. Having said that - it's easy to
predict that 2012
will be another year of massive growth in the enterprise SSD market.
Has FIO got what it takes to keep up its momentum? The SSD pie is getting
bigger - but with more ways to slice it - it's actually getting harder for any
single SSD company to capture (or retain) the imagination of the market.
and the ability to leverage SSD software will all make a difference.
you rather buy a fast server SSD from a "software company" (like FIO)
or a company which solves design problems with dedicated chips (like
Texas Memory Systems)?
Or is the winning market approach going to be a blend of something in between
these 2 extremes?
One thing it's easy to be sure about - Fusion-io
will continue to be a hot topic in
SSD news for users and
competitors alike for a long time to come.
For more info about
Fusion-io take a look at the links above and
- editor mentions on StorageSearch.com .
I currently talk to more
than 300 makers of SSDs and another 100 or so companies which are
closely enmeshed around the SSD ecosphere - which are all profiled here on
the mouse site.
I learn about new SSD companies every day, including
many in stealth mode. If you're interested in the growing
big picture of
the SSD market canvass - StorageSearch will help you along the way. Many
SSD company CEOs read our site too - and say they value our thought leading SSD
content - even when we say something that's not always comfortable to hear. I
hope you'll find it it useful too.
milestones extracted from recent
- Fusion-io launched the
ioDrive - a
PCIe form factor
flash SSD with
upto 640GB capacity and 100K IOPS performance.
In August 2008 -
Fusion-io added RAID
protection to the flash memory array in its Fusion-io PCIe SSD and improved R/W
In September 2008 -
the ioSAN - a 10GbE or Infiniband
attached flash SSD on PCIe form factor which will ship in 2009.
In February 2009 -
became Chief Scientist at
will act as a key technical advisor to the Fusion-io research and development
group and will also work closely with the executive team of Fusion-io in
formulating a strategy that will accelerate the expansion of major global
In March 2009 -
an oem deal with HP whose
new PCIe based
IO Accelerator for HP BladeSystem c-Class servers is based on Fusion's
ioMemory SSD technology. A low level formatting tool for the HP SSD enables
users to choose what level of
used - as a performance
Also in March 2009 -
an enhanced version of its ioDrive - called the
which will ship next month. Capacity has doubled to 640GB with 1.2TB planned
for the 2nd half of 2009. Performance has been enhanced too. The ioDrive Duo
can easily sustain 1.5 Gbytes/sec of read bandwidth. Read IOPS performance is
186,000 (4k packet size). Write IOPS reaches 167,000 (4k packet size).
- Fusion-io was named
the #1 company in StorageSearch.com's
list of the the Top 10
SSD OEMs based on search volume in Q1 2009. This was the 1st time that the
#1 slot had been held by a company which didn't make traditional hard-disk
Also in April 2009 - Fusion-io announced
that its SSD technology has enabled HP to achieve 1 million
IOPS (using 2KB random 70/30 read/write mix) and 8GB/s sustained throughput
from a single ProLiant server. Working together in HP's ProLiant engineering
labs in Houston, technologists from HP and Fusion-io built a system using 5x
320MB ioDrive Duos and 6x 160MB ioDrives in a single HP ProLiant DL785 G5
server, running with 4 Quad-Core AMD Opteron processors. Fusion-io's SSDs had
earlier been the secret ingredient in an
IOPS" story in August 2008.
Also in April 2009 -
Fusion-io announced it has closed $47.5 million in Series B funding
and named a new CEO,
In June 2009 -
it will ship a consumer
optimized version of of its enterprise PCIe SSD family in July. Priced at
$895, the ioXtreme has 80GB MLC
flash capacity and average throughput of 520MB/s. Supported OS's include:-
Windows XP, Vista and Linux.
- Fusion-io was once
again named the #1 company in
StorageSearch.com's list of the
the Top 10 SSD OEMs
based on search volume in Q 2009. Fusion-io's search volume was more than 2x
as high as the #3 ranked company in this list indicating overwhelmingly high
reader affinity for learning more about this company.
announced the results of TPC-H benchmark tests sponsored by, and running
on, Dell servers, and audited by
Performance Metrics, Inc. The tested
28,772 QphH on a 100GB database, at a cost of $1.47 per database
transaction. (The typical 3 year cost of ownership for the whole system
including software is quoted as $41,998.)
In October 2009 -
Fusion-io published a
study showing how their ioDrive
SSDs helped MySpace reduce server
count, claim back 50% rack space while increasing application performance
(compared to its legacy SAS RAID system) and massively decreasing electrical
power. As a result of this initial project - MySpace plans to replace all
remaining 1,770 2U servers with Fusion-io enabled servers as they reach their
October 2009 - Samsung
has invested in Fusion-io.
In November 2009 -
details of a very fast PCIe form factor,
compatible, flash SSD designed for 2 undisclosed government customers. Each
ioDrive Octal card, occupies 2 slots and delivers 800,000 IOPS (4k packet
size), 6GB/s bandwidth and has upto 5TB maximum capacity (implemented by 8x
In December 2009 - Fusion-io
that its ioMemory PCIe
SSD technology has been adapted by IBM who will remarket these
solutions (initially with upto 320GB capacity) as its
IOPS SSD PCIe Adapters for use in System x servers.
2010 - a video from Fusion-io
was featured in a new directory of
SSD videos - here on
Also in March 2010 - the company was
featured in a cameo role in a
- SSDs - reaching for
In April 2010 -
availability of its
- a 3U
PCIe connected SSD
with upto 7TB modular capacity and 1.7 million IOPS (4TB model). The best way
to think about it is "Fusion-io
in a box".
In August 2010 -
the availability of a new high density
PCIe SSD - which
supplies 1.28TB of MLC capacity on a single card. When used in concert with
Fusion's recently released ioMemory
Storage Layer the ioMemory technology delivers significant performance
enhancements to achieve nearly 300,000 sustained IOPS.
In October 2010 -
the opening of
new sales office in the UK.. The phone number is +44 (0)1295 264 33. The
UK Sales Manager Trevor
Cooper was previously at
launched a new iniative - the
Technology Alliance Program which help to accelerate the development and
market dissemination of products which leverage the company's ioMemory
In November 2010 -
Fusion-io said it
ship a web based control panel - called ioSphere - for monitoring,
performance and controlling its SSDs sometime in Q1, 2011.
Fusion-io this month
set new speed records
with its double-wide slot
Octal SSD - achieving 1 million
GB/s of bandwidth while offering capacity up to 5.7TB.
announced that it has been
working closely with Credit
Suisse to integrate ioMemory SSDs with its
Execution Services trading platform to improve its data access performance,
maximizing the effectiveness of its low latency trading platform architectures.
In January 2011 -
a new distributor in Japan - Tokyo
Electron Device - and reported that in the past 12 months it had shipped
more than 15 petabytes of its enterprise flash SSD accelerators.
it has filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the
SEC for a proposed IPO of shares of its
that it will integrate Fusion-io's
ioMemory accelerators into its
iSCSI storage systems.
In May 2011 -
that more of its PCIe SSDs
(including 640GB ioDrives and the 1.28TB Duo) are
from Dell - which is also extending the number of server platforms
supporting these accelerator options.
In August 2011 -
that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire
IO Turbine for
approximately $95 million.
In September 2011 -
it has integrated Fusion-io's
PCIe SSDs as a new
option in its
FC SAN compatible SSD
product line (which was hitherto
RAM SSD only) to
provide flash and
options. Using the new options the K2 can provide from 3 to 30TB of non-stop,
protected and self healing, blade server based flash storage in 4U to 12U of
rack space with R/W latency of 260 / 150 microseconds at a list price of $30K /
And also - Fusion-io
that its new SureErase data
sanitization tool has been confirmed as meeting Department of Defense
sanitization standards by the Defense Information Systems Agency. SureErase
enables users to securely remove/erase all data on any ioMemory-based
technology, following DoD/NIST standards, regardless of capacity, in less than 1
In October 2011 -
that it will sample new faster models in its range of PCIe SSDs in November. The
family (pdf) will offer R/W latency of 68 / 15 microseconds for the MLC
models and R/W IOPS of 350k / 510K IOPS (512B) for the SLC models.
In November 2011 -
it's looking for more funding - another $300 million (approx). FIO says 3
customers accounted for 77% of their revenue in the most recent quarter
in which the company reported
of $74 million - nearly 3x higher than a year ago. But the company
anticipates its revenue growth rate for the whole of FY2012 to dampen down to
that it will ship 10TB versions of its
(so-called because it includes 8 memory modules on double-wide
PCIe cards) in the
next quarter - which deliver 1.3 million IOPS with 6.7 GB/s bandwidth.
2012 - In a historic
this month showing the capabilities of its latency reducing Auto Commit
Memory (ACM) extension Fusion-io announced it
had exceeded 1 billion IOPS (64 byte data packets) in a configuration
which used 8 HP servers each configured with 8x
ioDrive2 Duo PCIe
In May 2012 - Fusion-io demonstrated
its first ever
SSD - connected via SCSI Express.
In August 2012 -
its ION software -
a toolkit for bulding your own network compatible
SSD rack by
adding some Fusion-io SSD cards and their new software to any leading server.
2013 - Fusion-io
released a new PCIe SSD
called the ioScale
(3.2TB on a single half length PCIe slot) aimed at cost sensitive and
technically savvy customers who have the potential to use thousands of cards in
their installations in
enterprise SSD apps.
Pricing is under
$3,900 / TB and the minimum order quantity is 100 units.
2013 - Fusion-io
it had acquired another storage
software company - ID7 - the
primary developer of the SCST (SCSI
target subsystem for Linux) - which had been collaborating on the
development of FIO's
In April 2013 -
NexGen Storage (an
hybrid array IP
company) for $119 million.
In May 2013 -
that its co-founders - David Flynn
(who had been CEO and President) and Rick White (who had
been CMO) have resigned and will pursue future entrepreneurial investing
In September 2013 - IBM - which had been offering
ioDrive (PCIe SSD)
technology in its product line since
first server oem to remarket the
ioScale - a product
described as having been optimized (price and feature set-wise) for huge
end users in the SSD
dark matter segment.
ioScale for new SSD Dynasties|
|Editor:- January 16, 2013 - Fusion-io has
released a new PCIe SSD
called the ioScale
(3.2TB on a single half length PCIe slot) which is aimed at technically savvy
customers who have the potential to use thousands of cards in their
installations in new
dynasty enterprise SSD apps.
Pricing is under
$3,900 / TB and the minimum order quantity is 100 units.|
comments:- When you first look at this product - you might be tempted to
think - So what? - isn't it very similar in capability to other products which
FIO (and others) have shipped already?
In one way you'd be right. The
ioScale's hardware design is based on FIO's experience in making low cost PCIe
SSDs for the workstation market - which is as close to
price pressure as FIO gets at the present time.
But the ioScale is
aimed at a special class of enterprise super users - whose apps and companies I
call:- new dynasty
and dark matter
Fusion-io told me
that when they did market research into the kinds of customers who were already
using their SSDs they discovered the big enterprise SSD customers could be
segmented into 2 groups which superficially had similar performance needs - but
were very different in the ways in which they valued issues such as:-
- compatibility with traditional software apps,
- how they handle reliability,
- how often they refresh and replace their infrastructure.
traditional enterprise customers have the profiles which everyone in the
industry knows about and aims their products at - but the new type of enterprise
customers have needs which are only starting to clarify - and for this latter
type of customer - SSDs are a strategic business enabler - because they can
convert efficiencies in raw computing technology into real competitive
- how they assess the cost / benefit of features within SSDs
Fusion-io is one of the few companies in the world which
already has a set of these latter cloud / data factory economy customers
who each have already got thousands of high performance PCIe SSDs - and who
have the ability to scale up substantially if their requirements are met and the
SSD enabled economy grows in the directions expected.
Rick told me that
these customers do want
performance, and low cost - but they don't need many of the bundled frills
which are deemed to be necessary for traditional enterprise SSD customers
legacy apps report faulty drives they change the drive or the rack. When
uber new dynasty SSD
users report faults - they route around them. Then when the time comes to
upgrade the CPU and storage capacity per square foot of that region in the
datacenter - the whole lot is forklifted out and replaced - faulty and unfaulty
racks - makes no difference.
Also - in these apps - hot pluggable
drives are a frill which is simply not worth paying for.
matter SSD customers - at which the ioScale is aimed - also know much more about
the technical limitations of their infrastructure - and have the technical
expertise to change things to suit them better - if they think it's worthwhile.
So - for example - the ability to dive into SSD APIs and change their apps
code to get speedups or other new functionality - is something they will do -
whereas traditional enterprise customers prefer all new hardware to work with
pre-existing software in a tweak-free environmoent.
conversation with Rick White - I referred back to the
software (which FIO launched in
August 2012 -
and which enables users to convert a standard server and a bunch of
PCIe SSDs into a
traditional SAN compatible
My assessment of that product shared with readers at the time - was that if
it satisfied the needs of a small number of super users - who could each buy
maybe hundreds or thousands of such systems - that made it worthwhile for FIO to
bundle the concept and launch it. I thought the analysis I had seen in other
places - which compared it to traditional rack SSDs was completely missing the
Rick confirned my analysis was closer to the mark - and many
times in our discussion we returned to the problems in the SSD market caused by
faulty and incomplete market
research and mistaken understandings of what the real issues in the market
My way of summarizing this is - that if you ask a bunch of
people who go to a trade show - what do you think about SSDs? - you're going to
get a different result to when you talk to people who are already deeply
engaged in the SSD market, have already done a lot of SSD projects and who
spend nearly all their waking hours thinking about what more can they do if they
had even better SSDs?
It's not that the traditional market research
gives you the wrong answers - it's more that - if you're not in the right place
in the SSD market then you don't understand enough to pose the right questions
- and you probably don't have access to the people who will ultimately decide
Fusion-io isn't the only SSD company who is getting value
business insights by researching its strategic customers.
last year that SanDisk
had adapted its approach to enterprise customers by deciding to support
competing hardware with its
And there are many more examples I could mention if I had the time.
database even better with FIO's flash|
|Editor:- November 20, 2012 - McObject
recently released new
benchmark results which indicate that the in-memory database company is not
so unfriendly to flash SSDs as you may have thought from reading earlier
company positioning papers.|
It seems that a software product - which
was originally designed for the DRAM-HDD world - is a good fit in the flash SSD
world too - if you have the right scale of data and the right SSD. ...read more
does a few new things |
|Editor:- August 2, 2012 - the performance and
strategic importance of
SSD software was
reinforced in 2 recent announcements by Fusion-io.|
its new ION software
- which is a toolkit for bulding your own network compatible
SSD rack by
adding some Fusion-io SSD cards and their new software to any leading server.
The concept isn't entirely new - because oems have been doing this
with various different brands of
PCIe SSDs for years
and this is a well
established alternative market segment for PCIe SSDs. What is new - is
that it makes the whole thing much easier.
Fusion-io says this new
software product "delivers breakthrough performance over
iSCSI using standard
protocols." (1 million random IOPs (4kB), 6GB/s throughput and 60
microseconds latency in a 1U rack.)
Earlier this week FIO
it was collaborating on getting interoperability in server-side flash and
with NetApp. It's
easier now to write a list of major storage systems oems who aren't doing
something significant with FIO.
Going back to SSD software...
Microsystems created and leveraged the phrase -
Network is the Computer.
||I have long thought an apt reinterpretation of
that in this decade is "the SSD is the computer" - or maybe the "SSD
software is the computer" - because the ultimate characteristics of fast
computers are determined more by the SSD architecture which is installed - than
by the same old CPU chips.|
|FIO demos 2.5" PCIe
|Editor:- May 3, 2012 - Fusion-io recently
demonstrated its first ever
SSD - connected via SCSI Express (SCSI for
believe that SCSI Express will be adopted as a leading standard for
PCIe deployments. We
look forward to collaborating with fellow
STA members and leading
SCSI experts to share
our expertise in this area...". said Gary Orenstein,
Fusion-io VP of Products.
| the buzz around FIO
hasn't gone away |
|Editor:- April 2012 - Market analysts have
been giving a lot of attention to Fusion-io in the past 12 months even if the
context may be driven by anticipating the scattering effect on other SSD oem
competitors who are in the same SSD free fire zone. Indeed so great was this
mania in 2011 that I dubbed it -
year of the FIO
IPO. But even as I write this - 1/3 of the way through 2012 ( year of the enterprise SSD
goldrush) the buzz around FIO hasn't gone away. |
I get more
questions about Fusion-io from readers who are investors and SSD analysts in
banks than about any other company.
In March 2012 I was
asked if the current valuation of FIO - at around $3 billion - was just a
"bunch of hype?"
When I get this type of question I
try to share my picture of the SSD market and where I think the technology is
going. It's up to readers to figure out for themselves how much of this makes
sense and whether to include some of it in their own thinking. I'm not an
investor in any single SSD company or group of SSD companies. But as this is my
company's 13th year selling enterprise SSD ads - and SSD ads are close to 100%
of our business - you could say I'm invested in the success or failure of the
whole SSD market.
reply to - is $3 billion for FIO hype?
This is what I said...
The valuation depends on your timescale.
I'm not an expert on shares. But I have been a good guesser at the relative
values of companies.
Is FIO worth signficantly more than any other enterprise SSD company
at the moment based on what they're known publicly to be doing?
In my view yes.
Is $3 billion justifiable?
My view is that enterprise SSDs will be a
$100B / year market
by the end of this decade - and that PCIe (or whatever replaces it) will be
a sizable chunk of that pie.
Every enterprise server will have SSD
acceleration inside the box - instead of less than 2% today.
Also - we're at the early days of figuring out what SSD software is
Owning the SSD
software layers which wrap around the servers could more important than
owning the OS.
Are FIO smart enough to do that?
They employ 3 of the top 10 smartest SSD market people in the world
that I know. So it's possible.
Another possibility is that when the SSD market gets much bigger than
it is today - a memory maker like
Samsung might want to
FIO's software is the cheapest and most scalable way to convert
unreliable flash into storage.
(This sentence below wasn't in my email reply - but has been added
to this article.)
"FIO's technology is downwardly scalable too
- to the notebook market for example - but the upwardly scalable part is where
the value lies today."
There are many possible business models
which could be built on this base.
As a cautionary warning - all technology companies have the ability to
shoot themselves in the foot too.
I don't think any current known SSD competitor can beat FIO head to
head in it core market (new dynasty enterprise
storage) - although the alternative slots in legacy enterprise are
equally big opportunities (for other companies).
But if FIO released
a version of software which trashed customer data - for example - that would be
worse for their reputation than recalls by
Intel (which is thought
of as being flaky in
some enterprise circles. But Intel has enough alternative resources to recover
temporary SSD setbacks.)
EMC evaluated the ioDrive and poked around the issue for months - but EMC was -
at that time - "clueless" about the potential of the SSD market..."|
|...Editor:- from the news story -
EMC gets around to
PCIe SSD launch (February 2012)|
many leading SSD companies - Fusion-io chose the readers of StorageSearch.com
as the first prospective customer market segment they invested their SSD
advertising message dollars in.
That was a safe choice - because when
Fusion-io started the world's first ads for PCIe SSDs here in
2008 - we had
already been running enterprise SSD ads for 9 years.
The image shown
above was the first ever banner ad designed to promote a PCIe SSD and was seen
by millions of our readers. The only thing which changed from time to time was
the product picture.
|FIO shows additive power of
|Editor:- April 2, 2014 - In a
demonstration this week Fusion-io showed the
combined advantages of using NVM compression in conjunction with its Atomic
Writes APIs in SkySQL environments. The results indicate that:-
- 2x as much data can be stored on the same flash media - while
giving similar performance and latency to the uncompressed case with legacy
- using compression and the new APIs - reduces write traffic and improves
endurance limited operating life by a factor of 4x
|Conspicuously absent from
DCIG's list of rackmount SSD vendors (at any rank) is Fusion-io. That's very
|DCIG's new buyers guide
(March 31, 2014) |
|Fusion-io seeks VARs for
its rackmount technologies|
|Editor:- February 10, 2014 - Fusion-io recently
that its systems level (PCIe SSD inside) products will be widely available from
VARs in North America in in Spring 2014. Specifically these products include:-
Editor's comments:- It takes
less time to hatch a human baby than it has taken for Fusion-io to make the
transition from first talking about some of these integrated systems to
making them generally available. |
Traditionally - SSD systems
companies hid the messy product creation process - and preferred to launch their
new rack babies when they were fully formed and ready to fly off the shelves.
That's in contrast to drive makers who often start revealing what their plans
are - long enough beforehand so that their customers can warm up to the idea.
Fusion's case - what we've been seeing in the past 2-3 quarters is not so much
the development of new rackmount product lines (because all the technology
components already existed before) but what we've witnessed instead is the
growth pangs and development of a new SSD systems business - jostling for
adequate space and recognition within an already confident module and software
business - with much of the thinking about the priorities being done out loud
and visible to the public gaze.
|re Fusion-io's results -
and the value of showing you can speak fluent rackmount when it's your logo
on the outside of the box|
|Editor:- January 22, 2014 - Fusion-io today
that revenue for the quarter ended December 31, 2013 was $94.5 million (22%
decline compared to the year ago period). |
As reported on these pages previously - and aside from the growing number of
strong competitors in the PCIe
SSD market - particular factors which compressed FIO's revenue growth were:-
- sensitivity to big orders in previous years from a small set of super
customer diversification theme was referred to in this earnings report - in
which FIO's CEO Shane Robison
said "...We are continuing to diversify our customer base, with nearly
6,000 end-user customers worldwide now using Fusion ioMemory-based solutions to
accelerate their data center applications.
- competitive issues related to the
rackmount SSD market
- which is becoming a growing strategic part of the product mix for Fusion-io -
as the company aspires to be the primary system brand - rather than - as in
previous years - an almost invisible
someone else's box.
In addition to the same issues which affect all
established vendors in the SSD box market (lead times to identify, qualify and
satisfy prospective users) - in many respects Fusion-io will still be regarded
as a "rackmount newbie" by most enterprise SSD users - whether or
not they are already customers of its server acceleration products. That's
because there's a lot of stuff you have to know and prove as a vendor in
rackmounts - which is different to the case with cards and modules.
although the evolving
rackmount SSD market offers a potential growth opportunity and
diversification of routes to market for Fusion-io - it's by no means an easy
market to conquer - and vendors have to demonstrate by their investments in
systems related testing reports and marketing - that they are serious.
Also mentioned in this
report was the company's continuing effort to demonstrate that it can "speak
fluent rackmount" -
new benchmarks and customers of its
continues to be cautious with its revenue guidance. As we've seen recently in
the enterprise SSD market with other vendors - executing well technically -
even in a fast growing market doesn't guarantee that you'll get the business
- because competitors are growing in numbers and growing in specialized
marketing competence too.
PS - I discussed the problems of being
regarded as a "rackmount newbie" with Skyera's CEO recently - see more
in the article Scary
|how to turn around
|Editor:- October 23, 2013 - Fusion-io today
announced several changes in key
personnel coincidentally with its latest
report - in which revenue ($86 million) declined 27% compared to
the year ago period. The people changes include:-
- departure of the company's CFO Dennis Wolf,
Editor's comments:- you might
think it's ironic that Fusion-io - the company which established the legitimacy
of PCIe SSDs as a key
center of gravity within enterprise
technology space - has now turned to one of the industry's newest PCIe SSD
vendors for a sense of business direction. But this makes sense for several
of a new board member - Dr. Edward H. Frank (whose past includes Apple,
Broadcom and Sun Microsystems).
- In the same year in which LSI entered the PCIe SSD market it also became
the #2 company in shipment volumes. So LSI does have some things it can teach
Fusion-io about other ways it can do business - even if FIO's core technology
assets in software are significantly better.
We'll have to see what new strategies emerge from the
company. Doing more things better from a marketing perspective costs more - so
some investors might howl in the short term. But if it takes them and FIO's
customers to a better place then they've been sliding towards recently
- the investors won't grumble.
- Over and above whatever is happening in the hotly contested PCIe SSD
market - however - Fusion-io in the past year has also embarked on serious
investments and customer facing commitments on a course which could (if
executed properly) also make the company a leader in 2 product categories
rackmount SSD market.
I said "if executed properly" advisedly - because seen
from an external perspective FIO's rackmount systems shop looks more like it
has been resourced like a Cinderella sideline - as a stall dressed
simply to sell more PCIe SSDs.
fast SSD boxes and
hybrid arrays are a
serious business opportunity for FIO (and I think they are) then it's not
enough of a business development strategy to develop the raw technology,
throw some webinars saying "it works" at YouTube - and waiting to
see what happens.
Fusion-io's rackmount SSD business - is going
head to head with other competitors for whom this is their main thing. So FIO's
systems business needs to have its own
clearer sense of identity.
That means more marketing, more
resources and more cash to support the different business characteristics of
PS - OK if you are one of those still
grumbling - then before you send me an email - here's another footnote.
you didn't see the detailed bit at the center of my
SSD software event horizon blog -
which talked about the revenue pain which results from the escalating
effect of SSD utilization improvements (from software) when they are
delivered to a non diverse customer base in too short an elapsed time period.
The effect is the same as if Boeing rang up all its airline
customers and said - we've got a new technology improvement which lets you
carry 3x as many passengers in the same plane body while using the
same total fuel. And BTW - we can deliver it to you as a free upgrade to
your existing fleets too.
Now we all suspect that in the aircraft
business - if they could do such an improvement - they'd hush it up - and hope
instead to stretch out the competitive gain over 20 to 30 years. Because it
would be bad business to do otherwise - as the airline passenger market
couldn't grow fast enough to absorb such a rapid scale up in utilization
But the SSD market is different. If you don't keep
improving your products now - someone else will come along and take your
place. And SSD passenger numbers have
a long way to grow
yet - because most apps servers aren't frequent flyers on SSD
shopping in China|
|Editor:- October 10, 2013 - The largest B2C
online shopping site in China - which has 51 million registered users who make
an average of 500,000 purchases daily - generating over 100 million pages / day
- has improved its Microsoft SQL Server database query response times
9x by accelerating its infrastructure with ioMemory (PCIe SSDs) from Fusion-io -
according to a
release yesterday. |
According to the linked
case study - the
customer JD.com - also reduced its server
count by 3 to 1, saved money on software licenses and other running costs and
also improved operational reliability.
advocate of ditching legacy APIs - Fusion-io - has always said that
customers who go down this road with their solutions often see speedups in the
10x and upwards range.
Having said that - the company also has also been working on parallel
routes to market in legacy compatible rackmount storage markets too - which are
more oriented towards cost savings than simply speed. "
the box - new directions in rackmount SSDs|
|Fusion-io's webcast on
rackmount related technologies |
|Editor:- September 11, 2013 - The other thing
would like you to recognize them for - is
The company yesterday
that it will be talking about this in
a webcast tomorrow
(Thursday 9am PT).|
Editor's comments:- Using
PCIe SSDs as
components within rackmount
SSDs is already a well established concept in
past - and expected to remain one of the
key uses in enterprise
SSD's future too.
A company called
Dolphin launched the
first such systems back in
Fusion-io's own ioDrives have been integrated by various companies within
rackmount storage systems in the past starting with :-
NextIO - as fast but
software-less storage (April
2010), and notably followed in a very different way (as the raw flash in
availability FC SAN SSDs) by
Kaminario (September 2011).
But for anyone who thought this might be a good idea - but didn't see
why they should have to buy this kind of solution from another new vendor -
they only had to wait till
August 2012 -
which is when Fusion-io launched its
- a software bundle which enabled any user to build their own legacy software
compatible fast FC SAN
compatible SSD rack using a bunch of iodrives and almost any customer
preferred standard server.
That created the possibility of a new
competitive choice for those in the
But for those interested in SSD acceleration whose needs for
performance and cost were more modest - there would soon be another way they
could use FIO's PCIe SSDs in a different way (as the
flash cache in
iSCSI hybrid HDD
An early example of this in
March 2011 - was
iSCSI hybrid systems by StoneFly
and then later we heard about iSCSI systems by
NexGen Storage (which
Fusion-io acquired in
- for most people in the enterprise SSD market - the mere mortals who haven't
already got inside Fusion-io's priviledged big customer gatekeeper orbit -it
has been exceedingly difficult to get a coherent picture of whether
these systems products are relevant - and if so - how to buy them.
in getting that information were undoubtedly not helped by the need to
assimilate the NexGen products into a business culture in which
hard drives had
previously been anathema - coupled with an ultra competitive market outlook (the
quality and diversity of competing options facing users in this market is
very high) and a reorganization due to the precipitous change in leadership
4 months ago.
So despite the title (Flash First for Hybrid and All Flash Storage)
I'm sure that even more of you than usual - will be interested to learn
what FIO has to say on this particular subject.
more links to FIO
rackmount info - added later
FIO's aggressively priced
hybrid rackmount for the iSCSI
intro) on SlideShare.net
rackmount offering for the FC
SAN SSD market
presentation slides on SlideShare.net
Data Accelerator Data Sheet
|Does LSI really compete
|Editor:- June 26, 2013 - 3 years ago when LSI became the 163rd
company to enter the SSD market I used the headline - "LSI will Compete
with Fusion-io" - because it was a useful shortcut to my guess-ahead at
what LSI might end up doing. This week LSI (reputedly the #2 company in PCIe
SSD shipments) expanded its Nytro product line. If you're interested in
Fusion-io's ioDrives - should you also care about LSI's new Nytro warp drives?
...read analysis in SSD
|"iSCSI used to be a
yawn zone for SSD developments. But no longer. These 6 companies are worth
knowing about if you have any iSCSI related plans.|
|Editor:- June 10, 2013 -
iSCSI SSD market|
|"Rick White and David
Flynn - built a strong company which is one of the best known and admired in the
SSD industry. Anyone who assumes that it will be easier to compete with FIO
today than it was yesterday risks a severe battering."|
|Editor:- May 9, 2013 - in SSD news - commenting
on the unexpected and sudden management changes which Fusion-io had
the day before. |
|Fusion-io enters the
iSCSI array market|
|Editor:- April 24, 2013 - Fusion-io made 2
significant announcements today.|
The 1st of these was anticipated:-
financial results for the quarter ended March 31 - revenue of $88 million
(down 27% from the preceding quarter and down 7% from the year
The 2nd of these was the real news -
FIO has acquired another company -
NexGen Storage (for $119
are SSD ASAPs
(hybrid caching systems with integrated real-time
dedupe and QoS
controls for VDI apps) which use Fusion's PCIe SSDs in standard servers with
conventional hard drives to deliver
iSCSI hybrid storage for
SME and departmental needs in a 3U rack which delivers upto 150K IOPS and
16TB to 192TB raw capacity.
that on a per-U basis their systems deliver 10x more IOPS than HDD arrays,
3x more IOPS / U than conventional hybrid arrays and 3x more GB / U for VDI apps
than pure SSD arrays.
These kinds of comparisons always depend on
which competitor you're comparing with and when the comparison was done.
However - the company has enough customer case studies and independent
analysis papers on its site to show that real customers liked the products.
up the 2 stories today?
FIO had already indicated that its revenue
from its known biggest customers would decline for a few quarters - so the
financial results are not a great surprise. But the NexGen announcement has
opened the door to an entirely new type of customer for Fusion-io at the other
end of the SSD adoption scale - compared to the well known big customers which
have until now dominated FIO's business.
Will it work?
used to being the leader in the
PCIe SSD market which
it largely helped to create as a significant new part of the server ecosystem.
But it will require a different type of marketing and business development
approach to convert the potential of NexGen's technology into an equivalent
leading role in the more conservative and crowded iSCSI market.
the other hand if you add NexGen's hybrid iSCSI IP to the marketing magic of
Fusion-io - it's safe to predict that the iSCSI market will soon be getting a
wake up call the likes of which it has never seen before.
|Fusion-io acquires SCSI
target IP team|
|Editor:- March 18, 2013 - Fusion-io
today that it has acquired another
company - ID7 - which had been
collaborating on the development of FIO's
ID7 was the primary developer of the
SCST (SCSI target subsystem for
Linux) that enables replication, thin provisioning,
and automatic backup on
any Linux server or appliance.
We had an opportunity to work with
Fusion-io on the development of the ION Data Accelerator... said Mark Klarzynski,
Founder and CTO of ID7 (who
today about the acquisition).. Were excited to join the Fusion-io team...
|9 million IOPS in a single
|Editor:- March 5, 2013 - Fusion-io today
it has achieved 9.6 million
byte) from a single 365GB
ioDrive2 (PCIe SSD). |
performance is made possible using APIs in
SDK (such as Auto-Commit Memory) which integrate flash into host systems,
allowing data to bypass normal bottlenecks in the OS.
FIO says its
APIs have been embraced by dozens of industry-leading
software companies to
enhance their applications.
|If an SSD company is worth
significantly more or less (or about the same) on a Friday than it was on the
|Editor:- January 30, 2013 -
results will be announced when the markets close today, and because of FIO's
position in the SSD market - it seems like many people just hold their breath
and wait to see what happens. |
I wrote about this tense waiting
period for investors, customers and (even) competitors in an article 3 months
ago called -
investments, x8 flash, and ETs - which may calm you down if you're feeling
...Later:- January 31, 2013 - the
reported were:- revenue of $120 million in the recent quarter, up 43%
from the year ago period.
For any other company that would be a great
result - but FIO had to explain to stakeholders why its revenue growth
apparently slowed down. More details in their press release.
before looking at what FIO said I wasn't surprised to see a small slowdown in
growth. With so many different ways to do the same type of acceleration now in
the market - and so many complex new
options available - I suspect it's taking even dedicated FIO customers a bit
longer to evaluate and optimize the exact configuration of the solutions they
need - even when they have already bought into the idea that they want more of
something that's nearly the same.
Customer pragmatism comes into it
too. The SSD platform decisions being made now - will have to make sense in 5
years time too.
...Later still:- February 1, 2013 - a reader
asked me to expand on the above point - particularly given his concern that FIO
is suggesting that revenue may be even lower in the next quarter.
bear in mind that this is my own analysis and speculation of what may be
happening in the market right now. Most of the text below is cut and paste from
an email I sent to a reader shortly before putting it on this webpage.
- what could cause big enterprise SSD users (in
new dynasty apps)
to slow down their uptake of SSDs for a while - given that
analysts like me
have projected that the total adoption in this market will grow a lot this
The dynamics of big SSD customers go like this...
They've seen details of new upcoming products or memory
technologies which look cheaper than what they're buying but maybe the
software for the new stuff isn't what they want yet.
If they're a big
Fusion-io customer they obviously like FIO but if the customer isn't careful
how they fit the FIO stuff into their company framework they know they'll be
locked into FIO just as much as previous generations were locked into IBM360 or
VMS or Solaris so they're looking at all the other things in the market -
including other suppliers and ways of doing things - and trying to figure out
- is there a way to use more of this FIO stuff easily without getting locked
And how about the other
SSD silos in the
enterprise where FIO isn't a supplier - but somehow it all has to play
There are many variables to optimize - and it's naiive to
pretend they can all be kept separate and managed independently forever.
SSD SOFTWARE PLATFORM will become the way that users will interpret all SSD
purchases in future. I think about 5 different companies have a viable
prospect of owning that enterprise front end and being important gateways in
the enterprise SSD world. I've talked to most of them and to other companies
who want to be the SSD platform.
Prospects for users are scary as they realize SSDs are not a short
term fix but will become the biggest place they put their future server budgets
in. It means that users will wait and try and figure things out. But if they
wait too long their infrastructure slows down. gets less competitive.
The odds are if you've already got FIO (or some other vendor's key
SSD tool which works) you are already locked in but just don't want to admit it.
Are you safer using FIO through a 3rd party -
yeah maybe - if that's possible - but then you lose the performance - you
could get from embedding Fusion-io's APIs.
And BTW SanDisk has
only been in the software business for a handful or quarters.
ditto comments re - OCZ's
Customer navel gazing and
SSD software lock-in
concerns are real and serious. But not easily solvable.
Once you start using SSDs you can't stop using more.
The future SSD purchases will have to be made (with someone). Some problems
have no tidy solution. Figuring out the best way to architect SSD datacenters
and creating internal standards takes time. But there isn't any time.
Another simpler answer - given in FIO's own conference call - but
which I hadn't heard till after writing this piece - is that if the customers
are getting cleverer at using SSDs - what CEO, David Flynn referred to
as their increased efficiency
- then in the short term they can do the same workload they planned earlier with
less SSDs - for now.
But it's reasonable to assume that will simply
lower the viability threshold for using SSDs in other new functions too -
because the SSD cost per added business customer value is better. Which means
even more SSD demand from new apps down the road.
Meanwhile users who
have stuck rigidly with legacy SSD architectures - think they don't have to
worry so much about these issues - because the SSD fits into their pre-existing
schema for doing things. But even the legacy SSD solutions have started to add
personality traits. And even legacy architecture SSDs will have to fit into your
future SSD software platform.
Legacy apps users can delay for now
making these decisions and still avoid getting too stuck into any single
supplier - but they will have to go through the same tortuous company-wide SSD
needs analysis themselves too - in the next year or so too - in order to get the
best value for what they're doing.
|"We could have
turned flash into a pretend disk drive and gone into existing storage area
networks, but that would have been a terrible mistake."|
|David Flynn, CEO, Fusion-io -
September 27, 2012|
in the article:-
does the Woz really do at Fusion-io?
IBM's acquisition of TMS hit FIO?|
|First analyzed in
(September 25, 2012).|
I returned to this theme - viewed from some other
directions too in a later article (January 2014) -
It's IBM Jim - but
not as we know it