Woz Joins Solid State Storage Startup

Solid state storage startup Fusion-io has added one of the biggest names in technology to its management team: Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Wozniak, already a member of Fusion-io’s advisory board, told the New York Times that he signed on as Chief Scientist because “I like the people and the product, and said I would like some greater involvement.”

Solid state drives (SSDs) have been one of the hottest data storage technologies in the last year, drawing interest from the likes of Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) co-founder Gordon Moore and others.

They offer far greater performance than even the fastest hard drives, but they also cost about 10 times as much. Still, with prices expected to drop about 50 percent a year, they are expected to catch on with users seeking greater performance for critical applications.

Fusion-io’s PCI Express-based flash technology is the basis for IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) flash efforts. Facebook is among the storage users considering PCI-based solid state storage. Other storage vendors are pushing SSDs that emulate hard disk drives (HDDs) so they can be mixed with SAS and SATA drives in storage arrays.

Wozniak will act as a key technical advisor to the Fusion-io research and development group, the company said, and he will also work closely with the company’s executive team on strategy.

“With the revolutionary technological advances being made by Fusion-io, the company is in the right place at the right time with the right technology and ready to direct the history of technology into the 21st century and beyond,” Wozniak said in a statement. “The technology marketplace has not seen such capacity for innovation and radical transformation since the mainframe computer was replaced by the home computer. Fusion-io’s technology is extremely useful to many different applications and almost all of the world’s servers.”

As a member of the advisory board, Wozniak was already advising the company on market trends, product roadmaps and other strategic activities.

“Steve Wozniak has been among the most elite innovators of his age and we are honored by his enthusiasm for our technology and our company,” Fusion-io CEO Don Basile said in a statement. “Steve’s inventions and insights have inspired generations of IT professionals and we look forward to the influence he will have on the future direction of Fusion-io as we continue to transform the enterprise.”

StorageIO founder and senior analyst Greg Schulz said Wozniak’s appointment “certainly is going to help get them some coverage and generate buzz. Maybe Woz
can open some doors with his tech and investor connections. It should be
entertaining to see how this story ends up panning out.”

Fusion-io claims its ioDrive is the first direct-attached solid state storage technology based on PCI-Express, “with I/O performance that surpasses that of mechanical disks by hundreds of times.” The company has also announced two other products: the ioSAN, a networked enterprise SSD, and the ioXtreme, a consumer product.

Fusion-io said it is working with IBM on its Project Quicksilver “to easily achieve over 1,000,000 IOPS by presenting multiple ioDrives as a shared storage solution.”

PCIe-based flash offers greater performance than HDD-emulating approaches, but it can also present error monitoring challenges. Fusion-io says it has addressed those issues by integrating a dedicated NAND flash chip on its PCIe card to serve as an XOR parity chip, eliminating data loss due to chip failures and extending the usable lifetime of the card. The company said it also employs advanced bit error correction and data integrity monitoring of stored data.

With what it claims is RAID 5-like redundancy, the company says it can “deliver the performance of a storage area network (SAN) at a fraction of the power, size and cost of traditional disk arrays.”

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Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for Time.com, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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