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Fusion-io's flash drill threatens to burst Violin's pipes

Both touting in-mem databases with SSD backing

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Blocks and Files NoSQL database supplier Couchbase says it is tweaking its key-value storage server to hook into Fusion-io's PCIe flash ioMemory products - caching the hottest data in RAM and storing lukewarm info in flash. Couchbase will use the ioMemory SDK to bypass the host operating system's IO subsystems and buffers to drill straight into the flash cache.

Now, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Violin Memory and Fusion-io are conceptually different and positioned in different areas of the market. Fusion-io offers flash storage on PCIe cards for individual servers. Violin Memory offers flash storage arrays that are shared over a network to servers.

Violin Memory says it will offer SAP's in-memory HANA database running inside one of its flash arrays within 60 days or so. This kit stores data in flash with colocated servers running the database application software.

Running in-memory databases with flash backing muddies this clear water between the two suppliers. Look at it like this: one box offers a database in a server with the data stored in flash and the app running in RAM. The other offers a database in a server with the data stored in flash and the app running in RAM. Which is which?

There is little conceptual difference as client systems accessing these databases will see fast-reacting boxes at the end of a wire whether it is a Violin Memory HANA box or a Fusion-io Couchbase box.

There may be a flash capacity difference, with Fusion-io's ioDrive Octal maxing out at around 10TB today whereas Violin Memory's 6000 product tops out at 32TB. Secondly it may be that the Violin Memory box runs multiple servers and the flash memory is shared between them. If we take a view that a multi-socket, multi-core server is conceptually multiple servers then that difference could be argued away.

Apart from these two points it may be that Couchbase runs faster on the Fusion-io system than on a Violin box because of Fusion-io's cut-through software.

My take on this is that Fusion-io and Violin Memory are starting to compete and the distance and difference between the two suppliers is going to lessen.

The Couchbase key-value store API is expected to be offered as open source in mid-July 2012. Select Fusion-io libraries and APIs are now available to early access partners through the Fusion-io Developer Program. ®

Don't forget to fire off your views on Fusion-io versus Violin Memory in the El Reg storage forum.

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