by Kevin OBrien

Fusion-io ioMemory: StorageReview On-Site

As a thought leader in the enterprise review space, having in-depth knowledge of the hardware and software you cover is crucial. Going beyond standard benchmarking practices, it's necessary to fully understand how new products are positioned in the market and adapt testing methodology to make our coverage both relevant and acutely accurate. This week StorageReview spent a few days at Fusion-io's headquarters in Salt Lake City, UT to get better insight into how ioMemory products work in detail, and to spend hands-on time with the new ioDrive2 product family.

As a fairly young entry into the enterprise storage community, Fusion-io was founded in 2005 by a team with backgrounds in transaction processing, high-performance networking, superclusters, and computing and image processing. Deciding to start with a clean slate instead of allowing legacy baggage to hold them back, they were able to design an innovative flash-based storage product. Out came the ioDrive, putting flash memory in close reach of the CPU while using underutilized system resources to accelerate application performance with ultra-low latency. Instead of looking at the ioDrive as standard storage device, Fusion-io looks at it and interacts with it in many of the same ways applications use system memory. The advantage to this approach is fewer hops between the application and the storage layer, which when combined with a massive data pipe, greatly accelerates application performance. As time went on more PCIe-based SSDs have come to market, but ioMemory products still stand out with their unique architecture.


We had a chance to get our hands on a number of Fusion-io models. Going clockwise starting with the 10TB Octal, shown above are two ioSANs utilizing high-speed on-board network interfaces including QSFP 40Gbps Ethernet and a 40Gbps QDR Infiniband, an ioDrive2, an ioDrive2 Duo, an ioCache, as well as an HP IO Accelerator (powered by Fusion-io). 

Understanding why Fusion-io designs the storage solutions the way they do is best explained by saying they want to give customers the highest performance possible with the best experience possible. Fusion-io went to great lengths to show us the level of support they offer through software utilities such as ioSphere, which gives companies the ability to monitor installed ioMemory devices anywhere on their network, and shows performance levels and reliability information for each drive. Remote monitoring services are offered as part of maintenance contracts to inform customers before devices fail; Fusion-io can even ship replacement components to customers before they even know something is wrong. Services like these go above and beyond the hardware offered, giving buyers a total performance solution, not just a card and hope that a customer can make it work themselves. 

With such a strong pairing of hardware and software that give Fusion-io ioMemory the performance they are known for, it was important for us to fully understand how to test their products in ways meaningful to the enterprise environments they are created for. This means a radical shift in the way we test modern PCIe storage devices, moving away from our conventional testing methods. We are starting to rethink the software we use to test these solutions, as well as putting these devices in real, meaningful conditions, not just synthetic workloads. With strong support from Mellanox, we are slowly transitioning to datacenter workload testing, using 40GbE networking gear to show server and application performance at a level that exists outside of what I/O workload generators simply can't replicate.

Working closely with Fusion-io software and hardware engineers, we logged time on new ioMemory products inside the their labs, giving us valuable insight into how we should test storage solutions in our growing Enterprise Testing Environment. Having a better understanding of how the enterprise and supercomputing fields use these types of devices gives us the ability to evolve as we cover products that have shifted the way companies look at storage. 

Stay tuned for more in-depth Fusion-io coverage from StorageReview, including the first deep dive into the latest generation of Fusion ioMemory and the Fusion Virtual Storage Layer (VSL).

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