NAND Flash is a disruptive technology, less expensive than RAM and with persistent memory like a disk drive, but much faster in storing and accessing data than a drive, says Fusion-io CEO David Flynn. And like disruptive technologies of the past, it was misunderstood initially and treated as an expensive but very fast solid-state storage technology, with Flash devices actually designed to fit into server hard disk bays. What it really is, he says, is a new class of server memory, capable of storing large amounts of data in cache at less expense than RAM and with a tiny faction of the energy use or heat generation, because it does not have to be powered to retain data.
“What's interesting is that flash has 20X the bit density per square inch of RAM, and, because it doesn't require power, 100X the density on a module,” Mr. Flynn said in an interview with Wikibon.org CEO David Vellante and SiliconAngle CEO John Furrier, later transcribed on Wikibon.org. “So it's not flash as a faster disk drive that's made solid state all that important, it's that flash is a higher-density memory device that has really made a big change in the industry. We can get from 800 Gigs to 5 Terabytes on one card.”
Facebook and other Web-based companies are scaling out at unprecedented rates and many are putting this concept to work to speed the analysis of the huge amounts of data on user activity they harvest from the Web. Typically they find they can get 10X the performance simply by adding Fusion-io Flash cards to their servers. “So the scale-out world is being transformed through this new kind of memory,” he says.
It also allows them to cut the number of servers in their data centers. Typically, they find that they only use about 10% of the RAM in their storage servers; often they will only put one processor chip in server motherboards that have two processor sockets. “What we do is let them put enough capacity and performance of this I/O memory in the server that they can get full utilization of those processors.”
For instance, “Answers.com retrofitted their MySQL scale-out database tier and saw 9X the throughput per server. What they chose to do was to shrink the database farm four-to-one. So they got a 75% consolidation, and with that remaining one-out-of-four servers they were still getting more than twice the throughput they had before.”
Ultimately, he says, Fusion-io is really supporting server consolidation, just like VMware, over and above what users can achieve by virtualizing their environments. And because Flash also provides very high I/O, it supports consolidation even in high I/O environments such as virtualized desktop infrastructure (VDI). This decreases the cost of computing and opens the door to the development of new families of applications that require the unique advantages that NAND Flash offers.
Action Item: Fusion-io's NAND Flash memory cards can allow your business to consolidate servers, cut your electric bill and heat management issue, and thereby prolong the life of your data center while actually increasing service levels to users. It can provide the physical infrastructure to make capturing and analyzing large amounts of semi-structured and unstructured data practical, driving business value.