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Fusion-io launches ioScale flash storage for hyperscale companies

Learning from Facebook to offer route to an all-flash data centre

Flash storage vendor Fusion-io has announced a new product line called ioScale, which is tailored to meet the needs of hyperscale and cloud companies such as Facebook.

In the past, Fusion-io has primarily targeted the enterprise market with its ioDrive line of products, and has established a broad ecosystem of partners, including the likes of HP, IBM, Dell, Cisco and NetApp.

However, the company has also had some take-up from companies running hyperscale infrastructures, such as Facebook and Salesforce.com. These companies have different requirements from enterprise organisations so, until now, Fusion-io has been building custom flash storage products for them.

ioScale is an attempt by Fusion-io to standardise these products, based on the specific requirements of cloud infrastructure providers and large web companies. To this end, each ioScale provides up to 3.2 TB of ioMemory capacity, enabling a small form factor server to reliably scale to 12.8 TB or more.

This helps to deliver maximum rack density and reduce the need for antiquated disk drive bays, according to Fusion-io CEO and Chairman David Flynn.

"ioScale uses a different grade of NAND Flash, the design of the board, the design of the controller, the entire thing is really quite different. Not having the requirements of the enterprise allows us to optimise it more around Capex as opposed to Opex," Flynn told Techworld.

"In the enterprise space they want something that will last forever; in the hyperscale market they often refresh their data centres within two years, maybe three, and they're looking more about the Capex, the up-front cost."

Flynn said that, with prices starting at $3.89 per gigabyte, and with increasing discounts based on volume, ioScale now makes it practical to architect an all-flash data centre, where there is no need for mechanical disks at all.

"One of the things about the ioScale is that it's the first of our products to support the ability to boot the server, so you do not need any other storage within the server whatsoever," said Flynn.

"That requirement was driven by the hyperscale market and the desire to go to an all-flash setup where there are no mechanical drives or even the need for SSDs; they can get rid of the RAID controller and the entire storage controller infrastructure is gone.

"Contrast that with trying to use SSDs in the same old drive bays - you can't really improve anything. You're not getting rid of the RAID controller, you're not getting rid of the drive bays, you're not collapsing those multiple different drives into one device. So in the end ioScale has one tenth the number of failure points than if you use SSDs."

Flynn added that, when you get rid of all of your "spinning rust", you no longer have to control the humidity in the data centre, which means you can use free air cooling. In general, the cooling systems burn as much power as the IT equipment, so this can have dramatic savings impacts.

Facebook is keen to lead the industry in the transformation to an all-flash data centre. The company has already made the transition for all their active data, according to Flynn, and is now looking at the possibility of using all-flash for their archival data.

More details about Facebook's ambitions to move to an all-flash data centre will be announced at the Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara this week, where Fusion-io is also launching ioScale.

"We're thrilled to see Fusion-io launching ioScale in conjunction with the Open Compute Summit and making this high-performance, low-power technology more broadly available," said Frank Frankovsky, chairman of the Open Compute Foundation and vice president of Hardware Design and Supply Chain at Facebook.

"We've been involved in all stages of the product's research and development, and we're excited by this technology's potential to help the industry meet its rapidly growing storage demands."


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