Fusion-io ioXtreme PCI Express SSD Review - HotHardware

Fusion-io ioXtreme PCI Express SSD Review

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Fusion-io sent us two cards for testing, an ioXtreme and their ioXtreme Pro.  We're told the the Pro variant is identical to the standard card, in terms of performance, except for Fusion-io's "Xlink" technology which allows two cards to be ganged together in a RAID setup over PCI Express.   


Left: ioXtreme Pro - Right: ioXtreme

The cards themselves are a case study in simplicity and design elegance.  The current ioXtreme design packs 80GB of MLC NAND flash in a half-height PCI Express X4 footprint and requires no external power beyond the PCIe slot power provided to the card.  

  

The ioXtremes are also passively cooled with a rather small heasink mounted to the top of the board's controller ASIC.  The ioXtreme's flash controller ASIC (Application Specific IC) is also supported by various other chips on the board, like Samsung DRAM cache and an Intel configuration Flash chip that is responsible for setting up the controller chip, since it is in fact a programmable device.

  

  
ioXtreme FPGA's by Xilinx and Fusion-io's ioAdministrator Software

In reality, the proprietary controller ASICs on all ioXtreme boards currently are FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Array) from Xilinx.  The Xilinx Vertex 5 chip that Fusion-io chose to build their controller out of is a rather large 1136 ball grid array device that comes with 110,000 logic cells for programming as well as several blocks of configurable memory on board and multiple other serial IO blocks like PCI Express.  These Xilinx FPGAs likely are few hundred dollars each and are easily the most costly component on the ioXtreme's bill of materials.  In the future, Fusion-io can cost reduce the board significantly, once their controller design is stable, by going to a full custom, hard-wired ASIC, versus the programmable devices they're currently using now.

The controller design of the ioXtreme implements a 25 parallel channel (X4 bank) memory architecture, with one channel dedicated to error detection and correction, as well as self-healing (data recovery and remapping) capabilities for the flash memory at the cell level.  By way of comparison, Intel's X25-M SSD implements a 10 channel design.  

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That is so sick! I've already ordered the package of both!

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I also ordered TWO of that package!!!

 

jk jk - this is a huge ripoff as I don't have ANYTHING that could benefit from this speed.

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Yeah, I ordered four of them so I could power my 486 DX40 in a new way.

It's probably not compatible with the 8088,...................

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Well now with Sata 6.0Gbps coming to market hopefully we'll be able to see these kind of speeds out of 2.5" drives. Or maybe someone will FINALLY make an awesome 3.5" drive. It would be a smart next move in this market I would think. Not sure why no one has done it yet. You can fit more hardware in a 3.5" drive. Which would mean, more speed and higher capacity. And with a new bus I would think that would = pure awesome :-)

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$11/GB is just way way too much. The extra speed doesn't justify the price bumb from cheaper SSDs.

Still, having "Upto 700MB/sec read speeds" will make you happy like a fat kid on cake.

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I mus t be the only one who's not getting these things.

They said they would be bootable, but they're not.  So for TYPICAL users, who's biggest value proposition is to use an SSD as their boot/application drive, this is massively less useful than if it was bootable. 

And as acarzt noted, SATA 6.0 Gbps is coming soon, and in fact you can buy a SATA 6.0 Gbps PCIe card (which also has USB 2.0 ports on it) from ASUS for only $30.  Since many current SSDs are likely maxed out by the SATA 3.0 Gbps limits, this may change things sigificantly once SSDs with SATA 6.0 start shipping.

These cards have worse random access characterstics than the Intel drives.

These cards are using rather more CPU than they should.  It isn't just scaling with the performance increase vs. an SSD.  Its something like double that.  Why?  And that's even before you're forced to use software RAID which will make things worse.

An obvious alternative in a week would be to buy some OCZ Collosus 3.5" drives.  They're supposed to be $300 each for 128GB.  And unlike the Fusion, the Collosus CAN boot the system and CAN use hardware RAID.  For $1200 you could buy FOUR of these and configure them in hardware RAID 0.  Which would mean you've effectively got EIGHT logical SSDs going in parallel.  Sure that likely doesn't make a lot of sense but it would be cheaper than the Fusion-io and have over six times the storage, as well as supporting hardware RAID, etc.

Why is this so great again?  Its about to be overcome by the thundering herd of follow-ons to existing SSDs in traditional form factors that will sell in numbers that will dwarf this thing and put this company out of business.

Buy one for an Enterprise database application?  Sure.  For typical users, I still don't get it.

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they were being sarcastic lol

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MY POST WAS DRIPPING SARCASM

 

Even though SATA-6 is not as wild a woolly as is was meant to be,...........(it's just a specification at this point and any new SATA-6 drives on the market today do not achieve sustained 600 MB speeds) it's being touted as the new holy grail of computing. But so far It doesn't work at anywhere near the speeds it's supposed to.

These PCI-E cards are nowhere near where they should be in performance either,  for the price they're asking for them. (like SATA-6) It's the "New-Tax" I think, and most of us don't play that crap because we find ourselves based in financial reality. These cards are too frigging much money. The only people you'll hear crowing about them are people with a lot of money to play with or folks who get to test/review them for free. Yes, right now, Intel SSD's out perform these in some ways, but they are way too expensive also.

I think that the whole drive performance landscape will be drastically changed in two years time and that it will be time for us mainstream guys to hop aboard the truly high speed express.

(before you reply to this post folks, I realize that these drives are allot faster than what I have now)

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I have a pair of OCZ vertex drives in a RAID 0 and I hit read speeds of 400MB/s.... these things(the drives being reviewed) are Twice as fast by themselves and 3x as fast when raided!

I see little to no delay when opening programs. Everything Operates smoothly. Games when installed from the disc are just as slow as they would be on any other hard drive... Simply because my SSDs can  write faster than my ODD can read lol Games installed after being downloaded from the web.... watch out cuz those install crazy fast! lol

As far as in game load times... I really don't notice a difference between a normal disc drive and SSD. The SSDs definitely provide some nice performance advantages... But right now, it's really not worth the money lol These things are a High performance peice of equipment.... but there advantages apply more to moving massive amounts of data from one point to an other. They don't seem to offer much advantage in what a typical user will user them for. These drives aren't even meant to be constantly moving data, which is what they're good at, because the more you move around files, the quicker they are gonna die/slow down.

Of course I say all of this now, but if I switched over to a HDD base system i'd be complaining about how slow it is! lol

And before you ask... the OS and all programs and games are installed on the SSDs. All things like music, pictures, video, etc is stored on my 750GB HDD. I also have a 250GB HDD with nothing on it... I need to start ripping some DVDs lol.

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