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who are Fusion-io's toughest sofware competitors?

This article originally appeared in SSD news in October 2012
in the SSD software golf challenge who's got a similar handicap to Fusion-io?

Editor:- October 2, 2012 - last week I was asked by a reader (who didn't want to be named here) if I could suggest any companies which have SSD software as powerful and far reaching as that of Fusion-io.

I thought it would be much too simplistic to answer with a list of names taken out of context - so instead I said there are several different levels at which you can view and analyze this:-
  • down in the flash
  • above the flash array
  • communicating intelligence between the API and raw flash level
  • working between different storage systems and software components (caching, tiering, virtualization, data protection etc)
  • working in different markets - enterprise and consumer.

    Why consumer? - you ask - I thought we were talking about Fusion-io?

    As I mentioned a few years ago Fusion-io's software is applicable to notebooks. It's simply a commercial decision not to pursue that avenue in the current unprofitable state of the consumer market. But in the long term it's one of the reasons that the company is rated as being so valuable - because its technology can span solid state storage from the level of Ultrabooks (with PCIe inside) upto supercomputers.
After using a lot more words in my email than I've used here - the end result was a reply to my reader with a list of companies which you wouldn't be too surprised to see if you looked at the list of top enterprise SSD companies and correlated that with who's acquired or developed their own software. The list ran something like this:-
  • FlashSoft (acquired by SanDisk) - have the makings of a serious industry platform.
  • GridIron - probably has the most sophisticated SSD ASAP software in the industry. (In my email I said - shame it's tied to their hardware - an SSD HDD hybrid box. But this week - that has changed. See the notes below for more about this.)
  • SANRAD (acquired by OCZ) is also a contender.
Interacting between the hardware layers to optimize the system within enterprise racks and arrays - the ability to hop in with intelligence gained from another level to tweak performance and reliability - is a genuine efficiency asset.
  • Virident - have several layers of intelligence in their PCIe SSD software. They don't like to talk too much about the details. But it's one of the things which makes their offering stronger than many others.
  • Nimbus - started out using a standard SSD controller in their 2.5" SAS arrays - but have added some firmware level access points which they leverage from higher levels to manage fault tolerance and performance.
  • Skyera - is probably the hottest example of this. They dive in at many levels to increase efficiency of the way they use flash.
And in the consumer software space I suggested:-
  • EasyCo - the very first enterprise SSD software company which was bumped aside by the SandForce inside technology wave - has found a new market opening selling their endurance and performance enhancing software to makers of cheap flash storage for phones and consumer devices. It's no longer world beating IP - but it has its uses. (And maybe attractive for future patent trolls.)
The only real surprise in the list above to regular readers - might be GridIron - which because they haven't been a true pure SSD company (their main product is hybrid SSD and HDD boxes) don't get so many mentions on these SSD pages.

Anyway - I was reminded about the above email exchange when I saw GridIron's press release in my email this morning regarding their TurboCharger GT-1500 Data Accelerator Appliance - a 2U 12TB SSD ASAP - which can accelerate upto 120TB of back end storage.

In one way this can be regarded as an extrapolation of Dataram's XcelaSAN - which was launched 3 years ago. But the difference is in the detail and sophistication of the hotspot algorithms - which GridIron describe as "multi-zone behavior profiling (pdf)"

GridIron have a new (to me) marketing tagline - "Tier 0 Performance at Tier 2 Pricing" - I don't like SSD tiers myself - I prefer the idea of enterprise SSD application silos. But GridIron's summary of what they do is better than most.

Going back to the original question at the start of today's posting.

Do I know any vendors whose SSD software can match or beat Fusion-io?

Overall - the answer is - No. But in many important areas the answer is - Yes.

In my ramblings today (remember this started out as a much longer rambling email) you can see that the SSD software market is alive, healthy and just as competitive as the flash hardware business. Apologies to all the other companies I could have named but left out. You'll get your turn later.
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