Fusion-io updates flagship ioDrive flash cards

The PCIe-linked ioDrive2 cards use flash made on a denser, smaller process and have inbuilt error correction meant to compensate for any lack of reliability from the use of the technology
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Fusion-io has unveiled a new generation of PCI-Express flash cards that can plug into servers to boost the performance of data-intensive applications in datacentres.

ioDrive2 Duo

Fusion-io has launched its ioDrive2 and ioDrive2 Duo (above) flash cards. Photo credit: Fusion-io

The ioDrive2 and ioDrive2 Duo flash cards, announced on Monday, are being made on a different production process to provide a performance boost over the original ioDrive and ioDrive Duo. Fusion-io has stepped down to a 2x nanometre flash process (made on process between 20nm and 29nm) from a 3x nm one (between 30nm and 39nm). It has also used new flash storage controllers.

We basically doubled the performance of that product through a combination of enhanced logic and software in the storage layer.
– David Flynn, Fusion-io

"The original ioMemory [from which ioDrive stems] was released by us four years ago. In those four years, we basically doubled the performance of that product through a combination of enhanced logic and software in the storage layer," David Flynn, chief executive of Fusion-io, told ZDNet UK.

The ioDrive2 and ioDrive2 Duo will be released in single-level cell (SLC) and multi-level cell (MLC) flash variants. The 400GB SLC model can carry out 351,000 read input/output operations per second at read, and 511,000 at write, according to Fusion-io. The 365GB MLC version is capable of 84,000 IOPS read and 502,000 write.

Self-healing drives

In addition, the server add-in boards have received a resiliency boost via the storage company's new Adaptive Flashback technology, which allows the cards to heal themselves when die faults cause any of the 192 flash chips on the cards to fail, Flynn said.

"It's our third generation of fault tolerance," he noted.

The first generation, released four years ago, would mask a flash chip failure, while the second let the cards mask a chip failure and function at full performance, albeit at reduced capacity. Adaptive Flashback means that a chip can compensate in the case of subsequent failures as well.

Flynn explained that because Fusion-io tries to use the cheapest possible flash in its chips and is stepping down to smaller and smaller process nodes, the quality of its flash is "getting worse at the chip level". Adaptive Flashback is needed to compensate for the degradation in quality, he said.

"The [flash] reliability is getting worse," he said. "At 2x nanometre, the size of the features on the silicon makes them extremely delicate."

Flynn would not disclose which vendor provides flash to Fusion-io, but he did say "our mission is to incorporate strictly consumer-grade stuff sold in the highest volumes [to get away from] the scarcity issue".

One of the largest buyers of consumer-grade flash is Apple, which gets most of its supply from Samsung. At the moment, Samsung is making flash on a 2x nm process.

The ioDrive2 and ioDrive2 Duo MLC cards will come in 365GB, 785GB, 1.2TB and 2.4TB formats, and will arrive starting in late November, the company said. The SLC models with 400GB, 600GB and 1.2TB of storage capacity will become available after that. No UK pricing was disclosed, but the US pricing for the new ioMemory products begins at $5,950 (£3,847).

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