Fusion-io has cut a swath through the storage industry, accumulating mind share like a game of Katamari. Awareness seems impossibly high for such a small, young company: Nearly everyone I talk to would love to get their hands on one of their lightning fast ioMemory cards. But Fusion-io has an Achilles’ heel: Their products cost more than an economy car! All that changes this quarter with the release of the workstation-oriented Fusion ioFX card.
Fusion-io and ioMemory
Most of my readers are aware of solid-state drives (SSD’s), and the tremendous benefit they bring over traditional spinning hard disk drives. But Fusion-io’s lineup of ioMemory cards are an entirely different animal. Although the Fusion-io driver emulates the standard disk drive, nothing could be further than the truth. These desktop PCIe cards are an order of magnitude faster than any SSD, with I/O latency measured in microseconds.
Essentially, a Fusion-io card can be thought of as a tier of memory as much as a tier of storage, though of course this is not how it appears to the operating system. A single Fusion-io card can easily handle hundreds of thousands of IOPS, a veritable data center worth of I/O workload. Not everyone needs this kind of storage performance, but the company has found many takers in fields as diverse as media, virtualization, and databases and enterprise applications.
Introducing the Fusion ioFX
The newly announced Fusion ioFX card continues this performance tradition. Though writes are significantly slower, the card is indistinguishable from Fusion-io’s flagship ioDrive lineup in terms of driver and application support. Even with less expensive quad MLC flash architecture, the ioFX still boasts gigabyte speed read bandwidth and access latency under 50 µs. The half height PCI Express card works with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux and includes the same ioSphere management software as the flagship line.
But the big news is price: Where the ioDrive lineup was priced out of consideration for workstation use, with most buyers spending over $10,000 per card, the ioFX lists at just $2495! This pricing completely changes the dynamic and market for Fusion-io’s products. For the first time, companies can equip masses of workstations with Fusion-io cards, and even enthusiasts can get in on the fun (provided they are fairly well-heeled and have an available PCI Express card slot).
Although initially targeted at the creative market, I believe that the ioFX has broader appeal. Enterprise applications don’t necessarily need maximum performance, and this price allows companies to put a Fusion-io card in nearly every server. Then there is the virtualization market, for which PCI storage has much appeal. Even lab, proof of concept, and enthusiast users would love a Fusion-io card. But the company’s products have always been locked out of these spaces due to high pricing. The ioFX changes everything.
The ioFX was the highlight of NAB Show 2012 to me. Bringing massive performance to the masses, the ioFX continues Fusion-io’s tactic of shaking up the industry. And since it uses the same ioMemory architecture and drivers as the flagship ioDrive line, I expect Fusion-io will have difficulty keeping up with demand.