Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Shares of “Flash Madness Club” Founder Fusion-io Speed Up

Shares of the original member of my informal “flash madness club” Fusion-io soared — or, rather, accelerated by more than 9 percent — on a batch of news today.

Fusion-io shares closed at $38.10 — up 9.17 percent — during the regular session, and continued to climb by an additional 1 percent in after-hours trading. The shares have increased by more than 100 percent since they debuted on the New York Stock Exchange at $19 early this summer.

The main news came in the form of a new product, and the publication of news that Fusion-io technology was used in a high-performance computing project at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

People tend to think of Fusion-io as building traditional storage, but its main mission is to get data closer to the processor in a server, so that that processor doesn’t have to sit around waiting. Processors are super speedy and super impatient. Think of the processor as the impatient Miranda Priestly — played by Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” — and how Anne Hathaway’s character, Andy Sachs, is never fast enough for Priestly about handing her something she needs right away. Microprocessors hate nothing more than waiting for a hard drive to serve up the data they need.

Fusion-io’s drives try to speed that process up — and make microprocessors happier — by using flash memory built into an insert card and installing it close to the processor in a system. The news, announced at the Supercomputing conference in Seattle today, is that Fusion-io debuted a 10 terabyte version of its high-end ioDrive Octal product. You can now pack four of these into a single server, and have 40 terabytes of data right up close to those impatient processors. Companies like Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell and Supermicro build Fusion-io’s products into their own products.

The other news also had a supercomputing wrinkle to it. A machine that Lawrence Livermore called “Leviathan,” packed with Fusion-io cards and Intel processors, broke a record in processing a graph with more than 68 billion nodes. Well, it didn’t just break the record, it shattered it, as that number of nodes in a graph is four times the prior record. What that means, in English, is that the computer plotted a mathematical graph with more than 68 billion points of data.

Apparently — and I’m just learning this now — there’s a separate version of the Top 500 list called the Graph 500 which focuses on simulating 3-D problems.

It’s a lot to take in, but the main point is that Fusion-io seems to be showing that it has a going business. Critics of the company have argued that it relies too heavily upon its biggest data-center customers like Facebook and Apple, and that it will be vulnerable to slowing sales when those companies are through building their infrastructure. The problem with that argument is that there’s always another impatient processor throwing an impatient diva fit while waiting for data.

Also, I should note that today’s 9 percent move comes after Fusion shares fell about the same amount on word last week that the company is planning a $350 million secondary offering. When investors heard about that last week, they sent the shares plunging by more than 8 percent, territory it has since reclaimed. It has been a bumpy, volatile ride for Fusion-io, no doubt. In the five months since the debut, the stock has traded as low as $15, and almost as high as $40. That’s IPO investing for you.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald