PCI Express SSD from Fusion-io ioXtreme Is Aimed at the Consumer Market

Successor to the ioDrive, ioXtreme is a Solid State Drive that plugs directly into the PCI Express slot

By on November 17th, 2009 11:00 GMT

The first direct-to-PCI-e SSD developed by Fusion-io, the ioDrive, was meant for the enterprise market, but even there the cost couldn't truly be justified, regardless of the performance upsides presented by directly plugging the storage device into the slot. The ioXtreme is a version of the same product aimed at the consumer market.

In tune with Fusion-io's reputation, the ioXtreme PCI Express Solid State Drive is not just amazingly fast, it is the fastest storage unit currently on the market. Although it does not have such a high storage capacity (a total of 80GB), it can reach a read speed of up to an astounding 700MB/s and a write speed of 280MB/s, and has an elegant half-height PCI Express card design.

In order to reach a more accessible cost, the drive was built using the less expensive MLC NAND flash, unlike the ioDrive, which is based on the SLC flash technology. The drive comes in the ioXtreme Prop variant besides the standard one, with the only added feature being the possibility to link two identical units in a RAID setup over PCI Express, through the Xlink technology. This means that three such products together can combine intro a stupefying 2.1 GB/s read throughput.

The SSD is privately cooled by a diminutive heatsink mounted atop the board's controller Application Specific IC, which is supported by various other chips on the board, such as Samsung DRAM cache and an Intel configuration Flash chip that is responsible for setting up the controller chip (it is in fact a programmable device).

The main components responsible for the high cost of the ioXtreme PCI Express Solid State Drive are the proprietary controller ASICs on all ioXtremes, which are all Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA). The future incarnations of this SSD might become less costly once the design is stable, through switching to a fully customized, hard-wired ASIC instead of the currently used programmable devices (such as the Xilinx Vertex 5 chip).

The ioXtreme drive can operate at temperatures between -40°C and +70°C, supports multiple operating systems, including Windows 7. Unfortunately, it cannot be used as a boot drive, requires Windows software RAID to function and has no RAID bios.

The product may be purchased for $895. In addition, the ioXtreme Pro can be purchased for $1,499, whereas the ioXtreme Bundle (ioXtreme + ioXtreme Pro) is available for $1,995.

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