Fusion-io Releases TPC-H Results; Claims To Hold Price/Performance Advantage

Fusion-io announced TPC-H benchmark results today in a bid to raise its own visibility and promote solid-state storage as an alternative solution in the enterprise market. The company's PCI-Express-based products turned in a score of 28,772 Queries per Hour on a 100GB database, for a price/performance metric of $1.47 per database transaction. That's sufficient to rank third on TPC's price/performance list of vendors, and the company is quick to point out that it hit its performance target with just four "drives." As we discussed in our review from a few weeks ago, each Fusion ioDrive plugs into a PCIe x4 slot. Thus far, Fusion-io's products have stuck to PCI-Express 1.1, leaving each drive with 800MB/s of bandwidth per PCIe slot. When Fusion-io changes to PCIe Gen 2, the amount of bandwidth available per ioDrive will double.

Products like the ioDrive will eventually reshape the entire storage market from the enterprise to the desktop, but the current SSS/SSD market is still very immature. Windows 7 will improve OS compatibility with solid state storage devices, but that's only one small piece of a rather large puzzle. Drive controllers also need to be reevaluated, as do RAID controllers. According to Enterprise Storage writer Henry Newman, the current crop of enterprise-level RAID controllers are poorly suited to modern SSDs, and will need to be redesigned to take full advantage of the new storage medium. That generally fits the trend we've seen to date:  SSD's and their ilk may be perfectly compatible with modern technology, but that doesn't mean things are running as smoothly as they should be.

Fusion-io's decision to use a Dell PowerEdge T610 actually highlights another issue that would have to be addressed. The PowerEdge T610 is a tower server with five PCI-E slots (the link capacity is unspecified.) That same tower is built to hold ten hard drives, while a Dell enterprise storage solution can be configured with up to 180 drives. Fusion-io therefore has something of an interface problem, and it's not clear how the company proposes to address it. Servers (and racks, for that matter) were designed around the concept that it's easy to stuff a lot of hard drives into a relatively small space. SSDs fit right in, since they're the same size as 2.5" hard drives, but a 1U server built to optimize Fusion-io storage would have quite a different internal schematic. This would affect heat flow and hot spot formation, which has an impact on the surrounding racks, etc, etc.

Solid state storage, via one interface or another may be the future of computing, but that future is still years away. Given the current economic conditions and the existence of hard drive-centric server buildouts, it'll be awhile before Fusion-io's way of doing things catches in the market—if, indeed, it ever does.