Sunday, March 17, 2013


When you are building converged infrastructure the primary considerations are Power, Performance and Consolidation.

When it comes to virtual infrastructure the balance between costs and performance is largely based on the number of VMs/host and the utilization of CPU, Memory and Disk and Network IO on that host.  Ideally you want to use less IT architecture to achieve higher consolidation ratios.

Fusion-IO enables higher consolidation ratios and boasts 4000 Clients and climbing.  Fusion-IO technology in deployed in 65% of the Fortune 100.  In architecture that is known to thrive on memory such as SAP HANAH in memory database platforms, Fusion-IO has become a de facto standard.

Arguably the largest Cloud infrastructure is Facebook which has deployed 40,000 Fusion IO cards.   

Fusion-IO cards and software solutions are based on flash technology.  To get a better understanding of the Fusion-IO approach have a look at the following video.

CPU speeds have increased, Disk drive capacity is enormous as well.  Disk speeds have not kept up however and every year it gets worse.  This is were Fusion-IO technology can assist. Fusion-IO technology can increase the cache performance or provide a higher tier of performance storage based on flash.

Many traditional hardware providers are now using Fusion-IO cards in their products; HP, IBM, DELL, CISCO and NetApp.  Ironically they are all competing using the same OEM’d products from Fusion-IO.

Traditionally Fusion-IO software and cards have been deployed to add performance to database implementations.  Fusion-IO technology brings faster queries, faster data load times, faster reporting, and better SAN utilization and reduced disk queues to database implementations.

Within a Cloud environment, Fusion-IO provides a multiplier effect for your virtual infrastructure.  Fusion-IO cards and ioTurbine software can double the density of your VM hosts when properly deployed.

Fusion-IO is a memory Tier; Although DRAM is  faster, it is more expensive than deploying Fusion-IO cards.  Also there is typically an upper limit to memory which is vastly exceeded using a Fusion-IO cards.

When you install a Fusion-IO card into a VMware ESXi host by default it appears as a local datastore.  When you install ioTurbine software it changes from a datastore to cache.  You can enable select VMs to take advantage of this caching tier.

When a write is requested to the storage tier it goes directly to the SAN to ensure complete persistence.  When the end storage device sends an acknowledgement the ioTurbine software keeps an Asynchronous copy on the Fusion-IO card.  The same process is done for reads.  As reads and writes are cached to the Fusion-IO card, future requests can be serviced from cache dramatically improving performance while reducing the load on the existing SAN.

In addition to dedicated Fusion-IO cards within a server you can combine several Fusion-IO flash cards together in a single storage appliance using the Fusion-IO ION product.  This is essentially a ‘top of rack configuration’ which collects cards so that they can used as a high performance storage array.

There are a few things to keep in mind when considering each approach although they can be used to compliment each other.  When installing Fusion-IO cards into your ESXi hosts it is best to install them in all hosts in a cluster although it is not required.  To leverage the cards as cache vs. storage you will need the ioTurbine software.  The performance benefits are also based on the local cache being warm so minimizing VM migrations is be beneficial. 

In the ‘top of the rack’ model, the Fusion-IO ION product contains multiple flash cards in a 1U server platform.  The ION platform can deliver over a million I/Os per second over Fibre Channel, InfinBand and iSCSI standard storage protocols.

Whether it is higher consolidation ratios or dealing with high I/Os, Fusion-IO products are worth evaluating.

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