On June 5, 2014, Fusion-io executives invited industry analysts to a one-day product announcement and company strategy update. Eleven days later, SanDisk announced that it intended to acquire Fusion-io for $1.1B in cash as it builds out its enterprise flash and solid state device strategy. Not surprisingly, there was no indication of an impending acquisition during the June 5 event.
Since its founding in 2006, Fusion-io has gone through some product transitions and management changes. The June 5 event offered industry analysts an opportunity to assess the progress of Fusion-io under the current management team. During this session, Fusion-io revealed its Atomic Series of PCIe-based flash storage modules and talked about its go-to-market strategy going forward that included tightening relationships with OEM, ISV and channel partners. As if to underline that point, Fusion-io later announced that HP would be the first OEM to integrate the Atomic Series with its ProLiant servers.
In a subsequent conference call yesterday, San Disk executives indicated that they would continue to sell and support the entire Fusion-io product line—both server-based and appliance-based Flash storage products—and continue relationships with existing Fusion-io customers, OEMs, and channel partners. Further details regarding the acquisition are well documented…on the Forbes.com site.
What I would like to add is simply this: In an increasingly software-defined IT world, it’s the software that counts. And SanDisk now owns some interesting Fusion-io developed software. This includes:
Atomic Write—simultaneously writes multiple, non-contiguous storage blocks to Flash as a single transaction. For MySQL environments, this eliminates the need to provide atomicity via a double write buffer.
NVM Compression—doubles the useable capacity of Fusion’s ioMemory Flash
Write Vectoring—non-persistent write activity is directed to server flash, obviating the need to send these I/Os to disk. The net effect is to even further enhance application on Flash performance.
Read Cache—offloads reads from backend storage to local server-based Flash cache
Transparent File Sharing – Allows virtual machines to access data locally from server-side Flash rather than from shared external storage. TFS also provides in-line deduplication of all VDI desktops hosted on a server.
It is likely that SanDisk will now deliver these software-based enhancements in current and future Flash product offerings that include server-side Flash (Atomic Series for example) and Flash-based storage appliances (ioN Accelerator). These will be targeted at enterprise application acceleration opportunities like MySQL, SAP HANA, Hadoop HBase, mongoDB and others as well as VMware and VDI environments to further address server sprawl. One can also expect to see SanDisk express its advancement in NAND Flash technology including 3D NAND in future Fusion-io solutions.
Fusion-io has been perhaps the most aggressive and successful of the PCIe-attached, server-side Flash players. However, these types of implementations can require customers who buy these products “off the shelf” to open and reconfigure servers. For enterprise IT administrators this can be a complicated process—particularly so when hundreds of servers are contemplated. Therefore, some in the storage industry believe that the use of UltraDIMM solid state devices that connect directly to the server motherboard will eventually fill this market space. But because SanDisk is also a supplier of UltraDIMM technology, they can now have it both ways.
During the June 16 call, SanDisk executives said that they will continue to invest in PCIe flash technology. In addition they will use the Fusion-io acquisition to build-out its entire portfolio of enterprise-directed solid state device offerings that will include all-flash arrays. Make no mistake. SanDisk now has its sights set on the enterprise data center where the like of EMC and NetApp live. It has the storage hardware of the future and is building and acquiring the necessary software to differentiate.
The value proposition of software defined infrastructure depends on having a ready and cheap supply of commodity hardware. But what happens when a commodity player decides that it isn’t content to be relegated to mere “commodity” status? To see, watch SanDisk.
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