Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Fusion-io Brings Speedy Flash to Virtual Machines

Fusion-io, the company that uses flash memory to speed up servers in the data center — its customers include Facebook and Apple — says it has built a product that speeds up virtual servers, too.

If you’ve ever wished you could clone yourself into two or more people to get more work done, you can be jealous of computers, which can do exactly that. Virtualization allows one physical computer to split itself up into many virtual computers by sharing the computer’s hardware. Chips are now so fast that it makes economic sense to do this, so you can squeeze more work out of each machine. Cloud companies — like, say, Amazon — love it, because it allows them to act a little like a very happy Manhattan real estate developer, and subdivide and rent out a single computer many times over.

Until now, Fusion-io flash memory technology has worked only in cases in which there was no virtualization going on. In big-iron machines that tend to be used for one intensive application at a time, add-in cards are put in servers in order to put data that the process is working on closer to the processor — thus preventing the processor from waiting around, impatiently tapping its foot, for the poky little hard drive that just can’t deliver the data fast enough.

Fusion-io will today announce — at the VMWorld conference in Las Vegas, put on by the virtualization outfit VMware — its ioCache bundle, which is built specifically for virtualized computing environments. Which is pretty much any cloud computing service you’ve ever heard of.

I talked with Fusion-io CEO David Flynn last week, and he told me that the addition of flash speeds gives the physical machine the ability to run as many as three to five times more virtual machines. The benefit, of course, is that you get more work done on a single machine. More work per machine means either higher productivity overall, or savings on the hardware budget — both of which help CIOs score points with the boss.

The ioCache product was created in cooperation with IO Turbine, a company that Fusion-io acquired for $95 million earlier this month.

The company has thus far seen its shares waggle all over the map since its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in June. Having debuted at $25 a share that day, its stock has traded as high as $36.98 and as low as $19.28. Today, Fusion-io shares closed up $1.05, or more than four percent, to $23.32.


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