Fusion-io’s latest product, the ioXtreme family, brings down the price point for professional-grade, PCI Express-based flash SSDs to well below $1,000. ioXtreme offers an 80GB capacity today, which you can magnify by aggregating several ioXtreme drives into your system. You’ll need the more expensive Pro versions to take advantage of this feature, though.
The ioXtreme is not bootable, which means you cannot run your operating system off it. Instead, it’s designed as an application drive or, more precisely, as an application accelerator. Everything that you can run off the ioXtreme will receive a massive performance boost, which is comparable to what you can get by installing more RAM. Possible applications for the ioXtreme are Windows swap file offloading, databases, virtualized system partitions, running temporary files for Adobe Photoshop, or providing additional memory space to applications. At 80GB, we’re talking about memory that would be unaffordable if installed through conventional RAM.
The new ioXtremes are clearly faster than Intel’s X25-M G2 drives without providing higher capacity. ioXtreme delivers up to twice the I/O performance, much better maximum throughput, lower minimum read throughput, and write performance levels that are markedly superior to Intel’s drive. We would have loved to use an X25-E for direct comparison, but it wasn’t available to us at the time we did this review. Fusion-io also introduces performance optimizing modes, which help to maintain high write performance at the expense of capacity.
After all the comparison with Intel’s X25 drive, it has to be said that the ioXtreme wasn’t designed to replace these products. Ideally, the two would work together in a system running off an X25-M G2 but utilizing the ioXtreme to offload application data and the Windows swap file. If you’re configuring a high-end PC with an Extreme Edition processor, multi-GPU graphics, lots of RAM, and an SSD, the ioXtreme is attractive—as long as you run professional applications that can actually take advantage of it.