EMC versus Fusion-io: When it comes to bringing SSD to PCIe, does it matter whose product is first to hit the SSD market? And is there a significant difference between the storage juggernaut’s first PCIe offering versus SSD market leader Fusion-io’s current lineup? In this Q&A, Mark Peters, senior analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group, gives us his take on EMC, Fusion-io and their growing rivalry over PCIe.
Does EMC’s entry into PCIe indicate that the SSD market is shifting towards PCIe, rather than array-based SSDs? Is that the ideal use case?
I don’t see such a fundamental shift. It merely shows that there are use cases for multiple types of solid state in multiple places in the stack. PCIe of course gives even better performance than SSDs behind controllers, but is (currently) not so easy to manage, not quite as flexible, and more limited in terms of capacity. We will have a hierarchy of solid state in exactly the same way as we’re used to a hierarchy of HDDs.
What’s your read on VFCache? Fusion-io’s exec tells us that EMC rushed the product out the door. Do you believe that?
Well, frankly I’d hardly expect the market leader in PCIe server solid state to be thrilled by having EMC enter the fray. No, I don’t believe it was rushed out the door, [and] if that was the intent, it could have launched something much earlier. My ‘read’ is simply that EMC is fulfilling on what it said years before Lightning even existed as a project, let alone a product, that solid state is going to be big and EMC is going to ensure it has offers up and down and side to side.
Following on that line, EMC is still working on “Project Thunder,” which essentially sounds like a bunch of VFCache cards in an EMC box. What are they trying to accomplish with that approach? Will that offer something more than what you can accomplish with standard servers and VFCache PCIe flash?
Until they launch, we’re all guessing. What I can foresee, however, is that this will be a highly flexible network-attached appliance. I think that means more capacity and also the potential for a range of solid-state types to be in the one box.
Not surprisingly, EMC and Fusion-io both claim their respective products are faster. EMC says that’s because VFCache handles flash management and wear-leveling in the PCIe card, while Fusion-io says its product bypasses the guest operating system and is able to access I/O requests with less CPU use and that improves speed. How do the two stack up? Is it even an accurate comparison considering EMC uses SLC flash and Fusion-io employs MLC?
Frankly, the ‘my Ferrari goes 2 mph faster than your Bugatti’ arguments are so far removed from all but the most extreme applications that I’m not sure it matters. If I’m an end user, I want assurances of the impact on my real-world applications.