It's difficult to say if or when Fusion-io
's newest development will directly affect the average consumer, but as with many things in the technology field, what starts at the highest levels of enterprise eventually filters down to the consumer once kinks have been worked out, prices have adjusted downward and more partner companies have had time to adopt the new process. We are guessing that's exactly the path that ioMemory will take, which is a new flash-optimized OS subsystem.
ioMemory VSL (Virtual Storage Layer) is definitely an enterprise application for now. It has little direct connection to the parts within your existing notebook or desktop, but the ideas presented here could definitely affect your notebooks and desktops of the future. For starters, not too many consumers even own a Fusion-io product. The company mostly sells high-end, extraordinarily expensive flash-based SSDs to enterprise and corporate customers running servers and workstations that simply cannot wait for sluggish, oftentimes unreliable hard drives to spin up information. But we have already seen that Fusion-io is testing
the consumer waters, and as NAND prices continue to settle and SSDs continue to become more mainstream, they'll most likely continue to venture out into these uncharted territories.
According to the company, ioMemory VSL is the "first and only OS subsystem that combines the benefits of the traditional I/O sub-system (block-level reading and writing) with the benefits of the virtual memory subsystem – virtualizing ioMemory devices and offering a 'fusion' of both memory and storage." Fusion-io makes no bones about the use here, though, stating that ioMemory VSL is unique to the enterprise flash industry. Basically it "approaches flash as an extension of the memory hierarchy and as a new building block for computer hardware and software architecture, rather than confining it only to traditional storage paradigms." That's pretty deep on the "technobabble" scale, but the gist of it is this: the new fused architecture can provide near-linear performance scaling with very little software/hardware overhead , and it virtualizes Fusion’s ioMemory technology, presenting it not just as traditional block storage, but also as a virtualized storage/memory hybrid with a much richer set of interfaces.
The best news is that existing software such as file systems, volume managers, and applications are able to access ioMemory without modification, but for those seeking more advanced use, the tech can be tweaked by the end-user in order to bring out an advanced set of enhanced programmatic interfaces that seek to "further exploit ioMemory to improve throughput, response times, and reliability features."
Today, the company is simply introducing the technology, and judging by the quotes from select users down in the full release below, at least a couple of larger customers have found it quite useful. That said, the potential of this new architecture remains untapped. The good news here, though, is that it shouldn't remain untapped for long. The new software (and possibly firmware; details on the upgrade are scant) will work on all
existing and future Fusion-io products, giving each one the ability to treat flash-based storage as a new memory tier instead of a super-fast hard drive. Imagine all of the things you need RAM for, then think of how sweet it would be if you could slap 128GB of the stuff into a spare PCIe slot. We aren't positive that this will end up working out precisely like that when it hits the mainstream, but given just how speedy
all of Fusion-io's products
are, we wouldn't put it past them to re-write the story of system memory in one fell swoop.
Fusion-io Continues Its Innovation Leadership by Introducing First Flash-Optimized Subsystem
The Company’s New ioMemory VSL (Virtual Storage Layer) Subsystem Offers a Unique Fusion of Today’s I/O and Virtual Memory Subsystems, Further Distancing The Industry Leader from Competition
SALT LAKE CITY-- Fusion-io, pioneer of a new memory tier of flash-based solid-state (ioMemory) technology, today announced the release of a new flash-optimized OS subsystem called the ioMemory VSL (Virtual Storage Layer). The ioMemory VSL is the first and only OS subsystem that combines the benefits of the traditional I/O sub-system (block-level reading and writing) with the benefits of the virtual memory subsystem – virtualizing ioMemory devices and offering a “fusion” of both memory and storage.
The ioMemory VSL is unique to the enterprise flash industry. It approaches flash as an extension of the memory hierarchy and as a new building block for computer hardware and software architecture, rather than confining it only to traditional storage paradigms. The result is an elegant cut-through architecture that provides near-linear performance scaling with very little software/hardware overhead, unprecedented flash reliability and endurance, customer flexibility in formatting, software development opportunities, and future-proof field upgradeability.
The ioMemory VSL virtualizes Fusion’s ioMemory technology, presenting it not just as traditional block storage, but also as a virtualized storage/memory hybrid with a much richer set of interfaces. Existing software such as file systems, volume managers, and applications are able to access ioMemory without modification. But, with an advanced set of enhanced programmatic interfaces, applications can be adapted to further exploit ioMemory to improve throughput, response times, and reliability features. The ioMemory VSL is a springboard to an entirely new flash-optimized software ecosystem that has already begun to emerge with Fusion’s OEM partners, third-party solution developers, and research groups.
“Faster hardware features are often cited as the primary way that improvements in application performance are achieved. But, as Fusion-io shows, it certainly is not the only way,” said Jerome Wendt, DCIG Lead Analyst and President. “The ioMemory VSL enables organizations to achieve significant improvements in performance, reliability, and endurance. With the tens of thousands of devices that Fusion-io has in production in the marketplace today, customers can realize this benefit at no additional cost to Fusion-io customers.”
"Fusion‘s ioMemory VSL allowed us to develop a flash optimized file system called DFS that outperforms ext3 by 20 percent for direct access and over 149 percent for buffered access. It delivered up to 250 percent higher application performance in benchmarks while reducing CPU overhead,” said William Josephson, a PhD student at Princeton University working under Kai Li, founder of Data Domain. "Additionally, we used the advanced features of the ioMemory VSL to handle difficult operations such as block allocations, de-allocations and crash recovery safety. This allowed us to develop in just six months what typically takes three years."
“With the ioMemory VSL, information processing systems can improve performance, reliability and features set by taking full advantage of the unique capabilities flash has to offer,” said Neil Carson, CTO of Fusion-io. “Our approach to flash integration creates a new tier of virtualized memory, not just a legacy block storage device. This approach results in a more efficient, balanced infrastructure that is often capable of ten times the workload–enabling customers to do more with less.”