Fusion-io targets Facebook, Apple with pile-it-high, sell-it-cheap flash

The enterprise flash card designer has launched a stack-them-high and sell-them-cheap flash product designed for 'hyperscale' tech companies.

Fusion-io has launched a NAND flash card family that takes its inspiration from the retail adage of 'stack them high, sell them cheap'.

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The range of PCIe-flash drives, named ioScale, can only be bought in batches of 100 or more and capacities vary, per drive, from 410GB up to 3.2TB.

The drives also come with Fusion-io's lowest price, per gigabyte, of flash to date. If customers buy 100 of the largest 3.2TB ioScale drives, they get 3.2PB of flash storage at a cost per gigabyte of $3.89 (lower capacities increase the cost per gigabyte). The price includes all software licences along with the hardware, and comes in at $1.24m for the 100 units, or around $12,000 per drive. This is the official list price though, Fusion-io's CEO David Flynn, says, and can drop further after customers hammer out deals with the company.

So, who has the cash and low-latency storage requirements to shell out over a million dollars for 50TB to 3.2PB of server-attached multi-level cell flash storage? The answer is companies like two of Fusion-io's top customers, Facebook and Apple, Flynn says.

"These IO-memory-based devices are designed for the largest hyperscale customers," he says. "In the hyperscale market customers want to buy more wholesale pricing; we have to date not introduced products specialised for that market."

Fusion-io has been moved to introduce volume pricing for its own products due to the buying habits of such customers. Hyperscale (that is, absolutely huge websites with a need for low-latency server attached memory) tech properties "don't buy through the enterprise server vendors", Flynn says.

It's a trend that's been confirmed by tech execs themselves ,  with all the major cloud companies prefering to go direct to the manufacturing source - typically an Asian device manufacturer like Wistron or Foxconn or Quanta.

In addition, recent figures from analyst house Gartner have shown that traditional OEMs have struggled to increase the amount of servers they ship each quarter, while their Asian rivals have increased marketshare.

With all these factors in mind, Fusion-io's move makes sense: if the destiny of hardware is to be bought in commodity volumes at commodity prices, then you might as well try and get a piece of the action. 

"The efficiency of the supply chain is an important part of the ioScale story" — David Flynn, Fusion-io

To that end, the ioScale devices are essentially re-engineered versions of Fusion-io's low-cost ioFX products, which use cheaper NAND flash than Fusion-io's other products. 

"One of the important things about ioScale is that we have moved to a model that allows the contract manufacturers to do things in a more turnkey fashion. The efficiency of the supply chain is an important part of the ioScale story," he says.

The cost-per-gigabyte of $3.89 for 100 3.2TB ioScale units compares with a cost of around $11 per GB for ioDrive2 and under $5 for single ioFX units (Fusion-io would not to disclose the exact price.)

Each ioScale card has a minimum read bandwidth of 1.4GBps and a minimum write bandwidth of 700MBps. The write rate climbs with capacity so a 3.2TB card can write at 1.3GBps.