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Upstart server maker Cisco Systems has tapped server flash-drive maker Fusion-io to be its OEM supplier for flash storage in its "California" Unified Computing System blade severs.

With this deal, Fusion-io has wrapped up OEM deals with HP, Dell, and IBM, the top server makers in terms of shipments, as well as with Super Micro, the king of the whitebox makers, which peddles its own servers as well as raw components that smaller server makers use to build their own boxes.

Oracle, by virtue of buying Sun Microsystems, has its own servers and homegrown flash drives that were created by Sun before Oracle took over the company in January 2010, and that – like the Fusion-io drives – plug directly into PCI-Express slots instead of hanging off SATA or SAS disk controllers.

"We've run into a lot of customers using Cisco UCS blade servers, and they kept saying, 'What about me?'" Gary Orenstein, vice president of products at Fusion-io, tells El Reg. "Now we have something for them."

Cisco and Fusion-io have been working on the modified version of the ioMemory2 cards to make them slide into the B-Series M3 servers, the first of which were announced back in March, sporting Intel's Xeon E5-2600 processors and fast PCI-Express 3.0 peripheral slots.

Cisco is widely expected to launch a two-socket blade using the geared-down E5-2400 processors as well as a four-socket blade using the E5-4600 processors, and may even do so this week at its Cisco Live event in San Diego, which kicks off tomorrow. (If you look, the data for the B22 M3 blade and B420 M3 machines using those two other Xeon E5 chips have been posted, so we will circle back and tell you all about them.)

Getting an ioMemory2 card into the B-Series M3 takes a bit of engineering so that it can fit into the PCI-Express slots on a mezzanine card, according to Orenstein. While neither Cisco nor Fusion-io are giving out all of the details on the flash drive for the B-Series blades, Orenstein told El Reg that the drives will be based on multi-level cell (MLC) flash memory and will come in 365GB and 785GB capacities. Cisco is OEMing the units, and will set prices on them as well when they're available sometime in the second half of this year.

Cisco, as you know, has been ramping up its sales of its C-Series rack servers, mainly because some customers need more CPU clock, memory, or I/O expansion than the B-Series blades can offer. While Cisco and Fusion-io are still working out the finer points of an OEM relationship for standard ioMemory2 cards that will be offered in the C-Series rack machines, the reality is that you can go to a Fusion-io reseller today, buy these flash drives, and put them into Cisco's rackers.

The OEM agreement is a worldwide one, but it's not exclusive to Fusion-io. But it is the logical place to start if you want to add fast, PCI-based flash to a server and you don't want to engineer the drives yourself – as Cisco most certainly does not. ®

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