|the fastest SSDs|
Strategic Transitions in SSD
11 Key Symmetries in SSD design
Survivor's guide to enterprise SSDs
Legacy versus New Dynasty Enterprise SSDs
Efficiency - making the same SSD - with less flash
from SLC to XLC - flash in the enterprise - 2004 to 2013
| Editor:- July 2,
2012 - If you ask most people who know about the SSD market - which
company do you think of when you think about the concept of PCIe SSDs? - the
answer is Fusion-io
- the company which evangelized the concept of using MLC flash in enterprise
PCIe SSD accelerators - in new ways which break away from decades of
performance sapping legacy hard disk software. Fusion-io ignited the interest
of the world's leading server makers too - transforming accelerator SSDs from
a hard to find after-thought into a "must have" factory shipped
Fusion-io has lots of different models which span the range from products which accelerate graphics effects workstations, scalable value based accelerators which accelerate some of the world's largest online websites and high-end products for supercomputer modeling and analysis apps. Here are some model outlines:-
|model||Summary of the raw specs (scroll down to read the underlying story)|
|ioDrive Duo||The ioDrive Duo is a fast-enough PCI-Express-based SSD with upto 640GB (SLC) or 1.2TB (MLC) capacity and 30 microseconds latency. . The ioDrive Duo can easily sustain 1.5 Gbytes/sec of read bandwidth and approximately 280,000 IOPS (512B blocks). more info|
|ioDrive 2||The ioDrive 2 is a PCI-Express-based SSD with upto 600GB (SLC) / 1.2TB (MLC) of low latency storage (15µs write, and 47µs / 68µs read) and over 500,000 write IOPS. Designed for enterprise speedup - this family is designed for high reliability - and includes self-healing, wear management, and predictive monitoring OS support includes:- 64-Bit Microsoft XP/Vista/Win7/Server 2003/Server 2008, RHEL 4/5/6, SLES 10/11, OEL v5/6, VMware ESX 4.0/4.1/ESXi 4.1/5.0*, Solaris 10 U8/U9, OSX* 10.6.7/10.7, HP-UX* 11i more info|
|ioDrive Octal||The ioDrive Octal family is the highest performing product line from Fusion-io. The 10TB models have deliver approximately 1.3 million IOPS with 6.7 GB/s bandwidth and 45 microseconds latency. more info|
what's so very different about the design of Fusion-io's ioDrives / PCIe SSDs?Editor's comments about Fusion-io's ioDrive and ioMemory - December 2011 - a classic article
Why would you want to install an SSD accelerator? - The obvious answer is - to make your storage and applications run faster. But if you have a preference - which should it be? - Speeding up the storage most? - or - Speeding up the app most?
This is a case of where the raw numbers - without the narrative - fail to tell the full story. (You can see indicative performance numbers extracted from Fusion-io's datasheets above - and if you need more numbers - the links will take you there.)
Fusion-io's SSDs are unique in today's enterprise flash accelerator market in that they don't include a microprocessor on-board the SSD card to implement the functions of the SSD controller. Doing the flash management isn't as big a load as you might suppose for the ioDrive host - because it's still less than the traditional packeting and handshaking workload of talking to legacy storage interfaces. In other respects FIO's SSDs fit into in my classified groupings of SSD architecture types as follows:-
This was a bold move by the fledgling company when it started. Throughout all past SSD history - the designers of SSDs had gone to great lengths to hide their memory handling intellectual property inside chips like FPGAs and ASICs. One business result of this was that in the early days Fusion-io had to be careful about picking its customers - so they made sure they chose big name reputable companies - whether they were end users (like Facebook) or server oems (like HP etc) - who would not reverse engineer the algorithms - or if they did - would be worth suing. Of course nowadays Fusion-io is a big enough company itself that it has volume based cost and brand advantages - so even if another company were to copy some of their SSD technology - why would anyone buy it. But when Fusion-io's founders started down this track it was a very risky move - so why do it?
The consequences of this architectural decison are:-
But if you look an application speed - and if the app uses Fusion-io's APIs - which they call VSL - you see a different story.
Suppose your software does a lot of twiddly bits very fast and very often. No matter how fast or clever the offload processor is on another type of PCIe SSD card - there is still a level of inefficiency that comes in - because your software is talking to other software which has to go and look at the flash somewhere else. But in the ioDrive - the APIs are inside the flash controller loop. You can access (cleaned up and endurance managed) data almost at the same latency as if you had designed the SSD yourself for this particular app.
That's why with the ioMemory architecture the application can speed up at a faster rate than you might think by simply looking at comparative raw storage benchmarks. But you only have this level of control and software gain factor in a new installation - or a new design of storage appliance. That's something I discussed in my article Legacy vs New Dynasty a new way of looking at enterprise SSDs. You can probably guess - that Fusion-io is New Dynasty - and that's a description they liked when they read my article. (And their competitors on the Legacy side of the fence liked their own appellation too.)
If you're already in a distressed environment with servers overloaded and legacy apps which are running slow - adding an SSD accelerator may help - but the advantages and disadvantages of the ioMemory compared to alternative products are difficult or impossible to predict. I always say in that situation - it's best to try before you buy. Cautious minded users may even think about looking at much higher-cost add-on rackmount SSDs in those distressed situations - to avoid the risk of doing bad things to their already suffering old servers.
Another thing to think about in the legacy scenario is that - simply adding a fast SSD to a server running heavy duty apps isn't guaranteed to speed up your app.
That's something I learned in 1990 - when I had a customer with an Oracle app I wanted to speed up with an SSD. (The data set wasn't I/O bound - it was already small enough to be sitting entirely in main memory.)
More recently an architect from a leading software company told me he was surprised to discover that their core software didn't speed up as much as he expected when they evaluated the impact of ioDrive PCIe SSDs. When he analyzed the cause - it lay in their own source code and data architecture. Their software had been written for hard disk arrays and had inbuilt assumptions which meant they weren't running enough parallel threads to take advantage of the greater bandwidth and lower latency of SSDs. They would have got the same result with any other brand of PCIe SSD - but it made him realize that there was a lot more to being ready for the solid state storage future. Of course when they rewrote that software it ran faster.
Getting to success in the SSD market is complicated. I see my job here at the mouse site as trying to understanding all this complex stuff to help the SSD industry get better, faster. I hope you've found this helped you too. It's just one of thousands of SSD related peices I've written in the past 20 years. You can see the top 100 most popular SSD articles here.
I've spoken to the founders of Fusion-io many times in the past 4 years and also to systems integrators and ISVs who have used these products. I also talk to all their main SSD competitors too to learn how competing products and businesses work. My notes above are designed to help you quickly understand why this product from Fusion-io is different - and whether those are differences which matter to you.
I noticed that Fusion-io has written a white paper re the Fusion-io Difference (SSD Differentiator). It has a different perspective - but has nice pictures. For some of you that may be worth seeing too.
Later still or should it be PPS?
Take a look at this quote - "Hard drive emulation appeals to silicon providers because it offers the shortest route to market and requires the least innovation. By emulating disks, SSDs can be wedged into existing software stacks. Problem is - the native features of solid state are hidden by emulation. Performance gains are blunted, protection at the silicon level is ignored, and software interfaces at the cell level are simply not considered."
It's from a white paper Going Beyond SSD - to Software Defined Flash - which Fusion-io probably wrote a long time ago - but which I only saw recently (in April 2013). The article usefully encapsulates the key principles which make FIO's SSDs different. (I'm still going to call them SSDs.)
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