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EMC hits flash leader Fusion-io where it hurts: Low-cost server cards

Cheapie PCIe flash cards? That's OUR thing

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Storage, virtualisation, info and cloud giant EMC is set to widen its attack on server flash card leader Fusion-io by releasing a low-cost flash card for hyper-scale data centres.

Server flash card cache coherency is also set to appear for Oracle RAC environments, according to Stifel Nicolas analyst Aaron Rakers, who was at EMC World last week in 'Vegas.

Fusion-io introduced its ioScale PCIe server flash cards in January as cost-reduced cards that provide simplicity, reliability, performance and affordability for hyper-scale data centres where the unit of service is the server. The operators don't repair failed components of servers in situ, they just switch a failed server off and operate around it.

The ioScale cards have a single controller and use bog-standard MLC flash with capacities ranging from 410GB to 3.2TB with cost/GB at $3.89/GB for the 3.2TB product which sells in 1,090-unit quantities and up with a volume discount structure.

Rakers expects an EMC XtremSF variant to compete with the ioScale product line. The analyst reminds us that EMC's current XtremSF line has a price guarantee against Fusion-io's ioDrive2 products, so we might expect a similar guarantee as EMC tries to build up a supply footprint in the market.

The ioScale-type XtremSF products - NOtSoXTrem? - would have high capacities and lower endurance than the current XtremSF cards.

We also expect EMC to refresh its VNX line of mid-range arrays in the second half of this year.

Unless Fusion-io maintains its technological lead over EMC then we might see EMC catching up, although Hopkinton has no form whatsoever as a hyperscale data centre server flash card supplier and Fusion developed ioScale technology in conjunction with its largest customers and their needs, it says.

We might expect EMC to sell its ioScale-class product into those of its own accounts that are moving towards using hundreds and thousands of commodity servers, rather than non-EMC Fusion-io hyperscale server accounts like Apple and Facebook.

If Dell, HP, Intel and IBM have any sense they'll be sticking their own server flash cards, OEM'd from Fusion-io, Intel, LSI, Micron, Seagate/Virident or someone else maybe, into their server boxes and capturing the revenue that would otherwise go to a third-party supplier. Like Fusion-io, EMC will need to offer something more than basic hardware and that will almost certainly involved clever software.

Lastly, perhaps Cisco has its eyes on the hyperscale server business and might use an EMC flashcard instead of one from Micron or LSI or Seagate/Virident, if Seagate/Virident wants to play in this market. ®

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