Right the day before the meeting with NexGen Storage, it came the news the were just bought by Fusion-io. So, it became impossible to talk about NexGen without thinking about their technology as a part of the overall Fusion-io strategy; so I decided to wrote two different articles, this one about Fusion-IO and the future of Nexgen, and a second one deep-diving the NexGen Storage solution.
The acqusition brought even two CEO at the meeting with me and other Tech Field Day delegates. It’s not so common to be able to listen from these two main people of the two companies their thoughts and reasons behind the acquisition itself. I really liked the speech from David Flynn, Fusion-io CEO, who explained us why the company he leads has decided to buy NexGen (you can see the complete video at the end of this article).
Why a vendor known for its PCI Flash cards, that is always fighting “against” traditional storage vendors, claiming the superiority of “share-nothing” and “scale-out” designs (where each server has its own local flash storage, and replicas are managed only through software), now jumps into this market?
David Flynn gave us his reasons.
First reason, so obvsious it was not even told, is NexGen is using Fusion-IO cards inside their sotrage systems, so it was for sure among the possible targets of Fusion-IO acquisitions plans.
With NexGen, Fusion-IO can now have better access to the MidRange market, that many analysts evaluate around 16 billion dollars per year, that is twice the enterprise market. This is no doubt an attractive amount of money, so there is no wonder FIO bought a storage system in order to enter this market segment. FIO in fact knows its solution based on server-side flash cards is the most efficient in terms of performances and price at high scale, but it requires applications specifically designed to “scale-out”. that’s something that big enterprise companies like Facebook or Apple can do (in fact those are their two biggest customers), but is really unhandy for other companies using software wrote by someone else and without “scale-out” features. Even with hybrid solutions like ioTurbine or Ion available, Fusion-io has decided they need something more specific for the midrange market.
Midrange companies usually run the same storage system for a mix of workloads, so it makes more sense (by Fusion-io) to have a “multi-purpose” storage, able to take advantage of flash cards performances AND huge SATA disks at the same time, in order to have a storage that can be fast and cheap at the same time.
NexGen, unlike other primary hybrid storage vendors, uses the flash layer to accelerate not only read operations, but also writes. In this way the storage uses flash as a real tier, and not as a simple cache. This high level of performances is a key factor for migrate workloads to new storage systems, right because is now possible to consolidate many workloads in a single storage (saving money) without compromising performances.
Right because a midrand storage is not dedicated to a single workload, but it holds at the same time many workloads, to be able to guarantee the requested performances to each workload is a primary goal, in order to give to each of them a certain amount of I/O, without hindering other workloads.
NexGen has all this described features, so these are additional reasons that brought Fusion-IO to buy it.
It was really interesting the scenario Fusion-IO described about how the would like to transform the flash platforms (and also the NexGen solution) from simple components into a platform to be used by resellers to build their own solutions for final customers. According to Fusion-IO, the software stack developed by NexGen for their storage system is really sophisticated, and it allows for the creation of OEM storage systems that can be fast and reliable as the one directly created by NexGen itself.
This could lead in a medium time frame (I’m not sure is an easy thing) to software-only versions of NexGen, to be used by several system integrators in conjuction with Fusion-IO cards to realize their own storage systems. This is for sure a fascinating idea, already embraced by other vendors like Nexenta for example. Watch out for new “Fusion Powered IO” storage systems in the future, a brand that Fusion-IO wants to become a new “Intel Inside”.
Finally, Fusion-IO wants to send this message mainly to the final users, because according to David Flynn “Fusion-IO has really few friends among other IT vendors, because our technology helps customers to decrease the hardware expenses, so reducing the revenues of those vendors”.
For sure this is an interesting challenge, that could become more clear in the next few months. Fusion-IO has prepared the way by acquiring NexGen, ando also by hiring some key sales experts from 3Par, LeftHand and EqualLogic.
Will see in the next months if they will be able to succeed.