SAN JOSE, Calif. – Flash drive maker Fusion-io has rolled pout virtualization software to enable servers to use it adapter cards as either storage or virtual main memory. Long term, the company hopes to drive flash memory from storage buses like Serial ATA to the PCI Express interconnect its cards ride.
The Virtual Storage Layer software is available immediately from the company, but works only with Fusion's PCIe cards. The vast majority of flash cards currently ride SATA and Serial Attached SCSI buses are only geared for use as tertiary storage, not main memory.
Fusion hopes to change that. "The storage world has been stuck in the 1970's and has not had a lot of vibrant innovation because frankly the hardware has not been that interesting," said David Flynn, chief executive of Fusion.
The VSL code can host the DirectFS software developed at Princeton to translate between file addresses and block storage locations. Ultimately Fusion hopes to kick start work on Linux, and eventually Microsoft Windows to enable virtualized pools of flash on PCI Express to act as storage or main memory.
"I recently convinced the author of the Linux block subsystem--Jens Axbo of Norway--to join Fusion I/O because he was so interested in it," Flynn said. "On the Microsoft side, they have an inkling about this, but we are not poking the bear until we are further ahead," he said.
"That is likely to take awhile," Flynn said. "It will take a few years before the dust settles and OSes like Linux are really able to extract the full potential of this new flash medium," he added.
Meanwhile most flash drives plug into SATA and SDAS to leverage existing Linux and Windows features for hard drives. "Until we get further along and prove our point, most of the standards bodies are going to be left trying to implement legacy types of interfaces, to the OS in particular, [but] we do not view the operating system as done, sacrosanct, not enhanceable," he said.
The VSL software, which has been sampling to key customers since the beginning of the year, is expected to accelerate already rapidly growing sales at Fusion. Flynn said the company sold more drives in its last quarter than the company has since its original launch in the fall of 2007.
"We have tens of thousands of units [installed], and they can all be upgraded to use this" VSL software, he said.