Monday, October 01, 2007

NAND drive rides PCIe

How soon they forget! As far as I can tell I was the first tech journalist to write about Fusion I/O (Salt Lake City) and their plans for a novel controller to take solid-state drives to a new level. Last week the startup formally launched its first product, without bothering to drop me a line.

The ioDrive is a 4x PCIe card for servers that delivers 80-640 Gbytes. I think it uses multi-level cell flash which typically has a reduced operating life over the traditional single-cell chips, but the company's Web site is vague. It is clear on performance, stating the drive executes 100,000 IOPS (input/output per second) per card with sustained data rates of 800MB/sec (read) and 600MB/sec (write).

That compares favorably with high-end, solid-state server drives such as the 3.5-inch Zeus from Stec that packs 146 Gbytes and delivers 50,000 I/OPS riding hard disk interconnects such as SATA. Fusion IO showed its card running in a Hewlett-Packard blade server at last week's Demo Fall '07 conference, but it has not detailed the technology inside its controller chip yet. (I've got a call into them.)

The company does say the controller uses error correction and wear-leveling to deliver a service life of eight years compared to the five year service life of hard drives. The cards, which will be available early next year for $30 per Gbyte, can be used for either local storage or CPU caching across a wide range of server apps.

Although Fusion IO seems to have an edge, this is an increasingly crowded space. I have heard there are a few other companies with flash controllers in the works, including Marvell. And Intel's Pat Gelsinger held up a solid-stat drive at the Intel Developer Forum just two weeks ago and promised the world's biggest chip maker will get into this market, too.

What will Intel do? Will it make a difference? Heard any details on upcoming controllers from Marvell or startups? Drop a comment or email me at

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