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Fusion-io: how flash is driving software-defined storage

Flash could play a crucial role in software-defined data centres of the future, claims CEO

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The ability of flash to deliver data instantly to the processor is driving the market for software-defined storage, whereby storage is deployed, provisioned and managed through software, according to Fusion-io.

Speaking to Techworld at the IP Expo in London, president and CEO of Fusion-io David Flynn said that non-volatile memory technologies such as flash enable commodity servers to perform the role that proprietary storage systems used to take.

“The beauty of flash is that it has such capacity density and such performance density that you can embed it within the server. Until recently you couldn't have the server do the role of storage; flash is the catalyst because it gives you that capacity,” he said.

The advantage of having storage capacity inside the server is that data can be delivered to the CPU more quickly, removing the need for vast quantities of memory. This, according to Flynn, makes it a perfect match for software-defined storage.

“These are really twin things – software defined storage, where software gives the personality to the server so it can behave as storage, and then it's a new type of storage fundamentally,” he said.

Fusion-io launched itself into the software-defined storage market earlier this year, with the release of its ION Data Accelerator solution, which it claims can both improve data centre performance and allow customers to run an open server architecture.

ION Data Accelerator, in combination with Fusion-io’s ioMemory cards, can deliver over one million I/Os per second with up to 6GB per second throughput and under 0.06 millisecond latency.

“A customer in the US government, in the national security business – they have a single server with 40TB of I/O memory in it, and they literally printed a label to stick on the server that calls it the 'God Box', because it can devour so much data and analyse it so quickly that it blew their socks off,” said Flynn.

“Before then they had a huge storage array just for that one server, and it didn't do but a tiny fraction of what this one server can do with flash embedded in it. So it's really a dramatic difference.”

Software-defined storage is a part of the broader software-defined data centre concept whereby all the virtualised storage, server, networking and security resources required by an application can be defined by software and provisioned automatically.

However, Flynn said the IT industry will only fulfil this vision if it moves away from its dependency on proprietary systems and starts adopting more open server architectures.

“EMC is struggling with this transition, and even a lot of the new start-ups falsely think that they can use this proprietary model. But it's like when the PC came around and destroyed the mainframe market because it was an open platform and anybody could build components for it," he said.

Flynn concluded: “Making that same transition is really the bigger story behind Flash. It isn't about the Flash, it's about the implications for the business models of these companies.”


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