ioXtreme PCI Express SSDs Anticipate SATA 6 Gb/s Performance

ioXtreme And ioXtreme Pro

The ioXtreme drive is a single-slot, low-profile PCI Express x4 card that includes a powerful controller and 80GB of state-of-the-art MLC flash memory. Fusion-io specifies throughput of up to 700 MB/s reading and up to 280 MB/s for writes at 64KB block size. We ran a large number of benchmarks, including streaming read/writes and a dedicated 4K benchmark, to look at the real life performance numbers. Fusion-io’s promises actually aren’t far away from the results we observed. It’s important to underline that Fusion-io products are not bootable, meaning that you can only use them as application drives to run swap files and temporary data. This disqualifies the products for many users, but keep in mind that an 80GB, high-speed product that can serve as an extension to your main memory is an excellent (albeit pricey) alternative to purchasing lots of RAM.

There are two very similar ioXtreme models. One difference between the regular and Pro version is the latter’s ability to aggregate multiple ioXtreme drives via PCI Express in order to provide more storage capacity. Fusion-io utilizes a proprietary technology called X-Link, which simply requires one available x4 PCI Express slot per ioXtreme card. You have to purchase ioXtreme Pro drives to take advantage of the aggregation feature. This effectively creates an array across available ioXtreme drives. However, it is possible to use one ioXtreme non-Pro drive in aggregation scenarios.

The second difference between the ioXtreme regular and Pro version is the option to use the same performance profiles we’ve seen on the professional ioDrive. The ioXtreme Pro also supports Maximum Capacity, Improved Write Performance, and Maximum Write Performance modes. Improving write performance comes at the price of reduced capacity, though, with drives limited to 56GB for the improved mode and 40GB for maximum write performance. The unavailable space is made accessible to the controller so it can balance write access more effectively in an effort to maximize write performance at all times.

Drivers, Interface, Power Consumption

ioXtreme drives require a driver to operate, and Fusion-io’s support is currently limited to 64-bit operation systems. Linux and all Windows versions starting with Windows XP x64 are supported. All Fusion-io drives utilize ECC to maintain data integrity. The cards are rated at a nominal power consumption of 7.5W, which is a bit more than the power level of a 7,200 RPM, 3.5” hard drive. Given this performance, we believe this is acceptable.

The ioXtreme drives come with a few LEDs that provide detailed status information, too.