Fusion-io has demonstrated a billion input/output operations a second via eight HP servers, 64 ioDrive2 Duo cards and a new piece of software that dramatically boosts the performance of its non-volatile storage technology.
The company achieved the data transfer rate at the Demo:Enterprise event in San Francisco on Thursday. The demonstration was emblematic of the company's strategy of combining software and hardware to protect it from other, larger technology companies replicating its PCIe-linked NAND flash technology.
Fusion-io used 64 2.4TB flash ioDrive2 cards in the demonstration Photo credit: Fusion-io.
Fusion-io was able to give a 16-fold increase on the base performance of its ioDrive2 cards by using Auto Commit Memory, a new piece of software within the company's ioMemory VSL suite that makes it possible to bypass the host operating system and form a direct link between the flash cards and the servers' processors. The demonstration used 64 byte data packets.
"You're mapping [the storage] like a memory device," David Flynn, the company's co-founder and chief executive, told ZDNet UK. "What it really boils down to is getting the data to the application as quickly as possible. What this is demonstrating is the final step which is removing the thick layers of software."
By bypassing the host operating system, which in the demonstration was Linux, Fusion-io can up the rate at which data can be passed to the processors and back to the ioDrive2 cards.
"What's the point of a billion IOPS if the operating system is only capable of a million?" Flynn said. Auto Commit Memory does away with the data transfer limits of operating systems, though applications will need to be tweaked and rewritten to make use of the technology, he admitted.
Auto Commit Memory is the initial shell in a barrage of software updates that the company plans to bring out in 2012, ZDNet UK understands. It represents the company's major defence against competition from larger companies, such as EMC via its Project Lightning card and HP — which resells Fusion-io but is rumoured to be working on its own technology as well.
Fusion-io's gamble is it can make software that increases the performance of Fusion-io hardware to such an extent that companies happily tweak their applications to fit it. If this happens, it creates a difficult environment for companies like EMC when they target Fusion-io customers, Flynn said.
"We take the fertile ground, and leave a minefield behind," he said.
Ultimately, Fusion-io's cards should be viewed as a beachhead for the VSL software suite, Flynn conceded.
Some of Fusion-io's customers are Apple, Facebook and major companies in the financial, transportation and e-transaction industries. HP and IBM resell its technology. The demonstration came two years after Fusion-io broke the one million IOPS barrier.
"Instead of treating flash like storage, where data passes through all of the OS kernel subsystems that were built and optimised for traditional storage, our core ioMemory technology offers a platform with new programming primitives that can provide system and application developers direct access to non-volatile memory," said Steve Wozniak, Apple's co-founder and Fusion-io's chief scientist.