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Fusion-io stuffs workstation storage into bulging hand luggage

Dual-GPUs, 3GB/sec I/O and fits in overhead bin

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HPC blog Fusion-io nabbed prime real estate on the GTC 2012 exhibit floor – right inside the entryway. They took advantage of it by offering a hosted oxygen bar, complete with an oxygen bartender and a wide selection of coloured/flavoured airs. I got the lowdown on their offerings (it's hospital grade oxygen – something I insist upon) before talking to Vince Brisebois, industry manager for Fusion's high performance group and product manager for its new ioFX workstation SSD.

Oops… they don’t like to use the ‘D’ part of ‘SSD’. As Brisebois says in the video below, it’s not really a drive; ioFX is direct (PCI-e) attached, non-volatile memory designed to drive apps to maximum performance.

Since there are no controllers or control protocols to go through, latency is extremely low even when compared to speedy SSDs. According to Brisebois, typical SSD latency is around 1 millisecond, while ioFX latency is 0.04 milliseconds – much closer to RAM speeds.

At 420GB, it’s big enough to handle large jobs, and read bandwidth of 1.5GB/sec means that it can keep up with high performance apps like video transcoding much better than other workstation storage solutions.

What really caught my eye (aside from the coloured, bubbling vials and people sucking on tubes) was the demo system used to drive the display. It’s a complete – and highly powerful – PC built into a small, extremely rugged suitcase.

Brisebois built it because he was constantly having his systems smashed up by the airlines. He needed something that would hold the entire computer, yet fit into an overhead bin and be easy to transport. Me? I might have taken a normal computer case and glued a telescoping suitcase handle on it, but as you can see, Vince’s solution is much more elegant and refined.

He didn’t make any compromises on the performance front. It’s outfitted with an Asus Rampage 4 gamer motherboard, a liquid-cooled CPU, and two ioFX memory cards configured as RAID 0 and capable of providing 3.0GB/sec read speeds. It also sports a Quadro 6000 GPU, with room for another one if necessary. A mini keyboard (signed by Woz, who is Fusion-io’s chief scientist) and compact 1,000 watt power supply complete the system.

It’s fast, quiet, and completely self-contained. They showed off its gaudy speed by streaming 12 simultaneous uncompressed 1080p video streams onto a monitor above their booth, which required 2.8GB/sec read speed.

Take a look at the video to hear more about high-end oxygen, high-end performance, and one of the best functional PC mod jobs I’ve ever seen.

I politely declined the bartender’s offer to fill a bag of air for me to use on my trip back home. But I wanted to fill my entire car with it, and thus receive the amazing medicinal benefits that can only come from flavoured oxygen. If I could have somehow consumed oxygen throughout the entire 680-mile drive, I’d probably have cured every one of my physical ailments – and most of the mental ones too – and arrived home three inches taller as well. ®

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