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FlashMax sounds like a used car salesman from Essex. It's actually Virident's latest server flash card to replace the TachION and comes as Virident pockets $21m in extra funding from VCs keen to invest in the hottest flash market of them all.

Fusion-io opened the door to the booming server flash market and tons of would-be suppliers are pouring through the doorway it opened. By using PCIe-connected solid-state drives, server apps run much faster as they no longer have to wait for excruciatingly slow disk I/O to complete, especially networked storage I/O. Fusion just released its second-generation ioDrive and that's the benchmark every other supplier gets measured against.

Virident FlashMax

Virident's flash FlashMax whopper

Application speed-up is the name of the game and that means what matters is the card's latency, the number of I/O operations per second, and then the streaming data speed; how fast it can deliver data once it's started. FlashMax comes in a fast single-level cell (SLC) version with 300, 400 and 800GB capacity points, and a slightly slower 2-bit multi-level cell (MLC) configuration with 1TB and 1.4TB capacities, the latter being the largest in the low-profile form-factor PCIe card field, according to Virident.

STEC's Kronos BiTurbo goes up to 3.9TB, with its Turbo offering 1.95TB. Fusion-io's second generation ioDrive 2 Duo goes up to 2.4TB so you have lots of choice for higher capacities if you abandon any low-profile need.

SLC FLashMax has a 16 microsecond latency and does 340,000 4KB IOPS and 1.4 million with 512 byte blocks. It streams sequential data at 1.4GB/sec or more and writes at 1.1GB/sec. Fusion's SLC ioDrive 2 does 450,000 512-byte write IOPS, and streams both read and write data at 3GB/sec. Score a half point to Virident; it has Fusion beat with IOPS but is slower at streaming.

Virident says its delivery of "over 1.4 Million IOPS from a single PCIe device [is] an industry first". It gets this from its vFAS (Flash Management with Adaptive Scheduling) technology. This can remove data from the card such that it meets NIST and DoD standards for data sanitisation.

What about MLC? FlashMax MLC has a 19 microsecond latency, a 325,000 4KB block IOPS rating (1 million with 512B transfers), and streams read data at 1.3GB/sec but write data at a pedestrian 600MB/sec.

Step forward Fusion's MLC ioDrive 2. At a 1.2TB capacity level its write access latency is 15 microseconds, it does 92,000 512B read IOPS, 512,000 writes, and streams read and write data at 1.2GB/sec. Virident is much faster in an IOPS sense, marginally faster streaming read data and half of Fusion's write streaming speed. Score another half point to Virident.

It says FlashMax presents a standard block access storage interface to the host server and has global wear-levelling. The speeds being presented here are sustained over the life of the device, there being no fresh-out-of-the-box spurt puffing them up

A senior analyst at ESG, Mark Peters, provides independent conformation of this, saying: "Flash storage performance is considerably affected by factors such as application workloads and data sets, and will invariably downgrade as the capacity of the disk gets used. Virident’s FlashMAX has been specifically designed to eliminate these variations and deliver consistent performance over time."

FlashMax is available now with suggested retail pricing starting from $13,000. ®

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