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Virident's tachIOn SSD flashes by

Coming thing or a goner?

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Virident Systems has announced its tachIOn solid state drive (SSD) that comes as a PCIe-connect card with a claimed two to four times IOPS advantage over Fusion-io and LSI/Seagate PCIe products.

What's a tachyon? It's a supposed sub-atomic particle that travels faster than the speed of light. Apparently, if you could see one coming at you, it travels so fast that it is already past by the time you see it coming and you can see it going at the same time. Virident must be hoping that such a fate is not in its future.

Virident Systems is a start-up based in Milpitas, CA, and its product has field-replaceable modules containing single-level cell (SLC) flash chips from, for example, Micron, Samsung and Toshiba. There are three capacity levels: 200GB, 300GB and 400GB.

The tachIOn product delivers 1.3GB/s sustained read bandwidth with 320,000 sustained read IOPS using 4KB blocks. The equivalent sustained write numbers are 800MB/s and 200,000 IOPS. It is claimed that the products will last for 24 years with a 5TB/day write load. These are all impressive numbers.

Virident supplies end-to-end error correction and says it has both global and local wear-levelling. RAID levels 0, 1, 5 and 10 are supported. The device also has TRIM support for Windows hosts.

The company claims tachIOn delivers its performance predictably and for much longer than other SSD products, and with higher performance than the other products as its capacity fills up. Its CEO, Kumar Ganapathy, says: "TachIOn is faster, more reliable, and offers better economics than competition ... Even at full capacity, tachIOn delivers high predictable performance."

Virident says it is going to deliver GreenCloud storage software to manage a fleet of tachIOns across a data centre, and this software will be delivered in phases. It will "enable large-scale deployment of SSDs, which until now has been hampered by capacity fragmentation and inconsistent availability of SSD resources to applications that need them".

We don't know what this means - whether it refers to very large tachIOn installations in individual servers or some way of aggregating multiple tachIOn installations across many servers. It occurs to us that we haven't needed any similar software to manage directly-accessed disk drive storage in servers, so what's the real problem Virident has in mind here?

Virident will be competing with Fusion-io, LSI, Micron and STEC for OEM deals with the main server vendors. These are Dell, HP and IBM, plus the others such as Acer, Fujitsu, Hitachi and Sun, plus the white box server trade. Fusion-io is making the running with deals with IBM and HP and a growing channel. LSI has a great existing OEM channel and STEC is looking to establish itself in this area, trading down from its enterprise flash drive high ground.

The likelihood is that this is going to turn into a dog-fight based on bandwidth, IOPS, endurance, reliability and price - a speeds, feeds and cost game with easy substitution of one vendor's PCIe card for another, much like one HDD vendor's drive can be substituted for another.

The big OEMs will prize delivery timing reliability, price and flexibility to their quantity needs. The smaller ones will be more price and performance conscious. It's going to be bloody until a stable set of vendors with stable technology emerges. ®

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