We were recently lucky enough to get an iOFX card from Fusion iO into our test lab. For those who don’t know who Fusion iO are, they have been making waves in the enterprise market with their high performance PCI Express-based flash memory devices. Typically, Fusion iO have sold products into the high end server market, with extremely high traffic websites such as Facebook and Apple’s iCloud service making use of their hardware to deal with the 100s of requests they get a second.
When is an SSD not an SSD?
Fusion iO don’t like to call their devices SSDs as they offer far more than that. SSDs traditionally connect to the SATA bus, which was originally designed for spinning drives – as are most file systems. These two things tend to get in the way of SSDs reaching their full performance. Most other PCIe SSDs, such as the RevoDrive, also use SATA as the interface to their flash – effectively they are like a PCIe RAID controller with one or more SSDs connected. This still brings the inherent legacy of spinning drives with it.
The iOFX is different. For all intents and purposes it directly connects the flash memory to the PCIe bus. Certain applications, such as Nuke, can even make use of the iOMemory API to address it as if it were RAM, further decreasing the latency. What all of this means is that it is very fast with very low latency, so files load faster even if you are trying to read a lot of them at once.
However, as the iOFX appears to most applications (those that don’t make use of iOMemory) as a very fast SSD, that’s what we’ll be comparing it with here.
The test results
The performance numbers certainly speak for themselves, with a read speed of up to 1.4 GBps and a write speed of 700 MBps the iOFX is significantly faster than SATA based SSDs and faster than other PCIe based SSDs to boot.
We verified these performance numbers in our test rig using the Blackmagic Design and ATTO disk speed tests and were shocked to see a 5GB read test complete in just over five seconds. There is a graph below showing the relative read/write speeds of some other SSDs for comparison – note that the performance numbers for these other SSDs are taken from their manufacturers’ specifications as we don’t have those drives here to test, but it stands to reason that the manufacturers are going to promote best case scenario times.
As you can see, the read speed (in black) of the iOFX eclipses the other SSDs. The write speed (in orange), while extremely fast, is not the fastest here. Fusion tell us this is by design, as it helps them keep the cost of the iOFX down. They’re pitching this as a cache/scratch drive for post-production applications, so read speed is far more important than write speed as these applications tend to need realtime playback of extremely large files.
Playback and rendering
To give an example, we were able to play back 4K uncompressed DPX files from the iOFX in realtime. We tried this in DaVinci Resolve and Adobe After Effects, and they experienced none of the sluggish performance normally associated with playing back 4K.
We also tried rendering some 2K DPX files read from the iOFX and writing out the resulting uncompressed Quicktime files back to the same iOFX. This more than doubled our render speeds compared to using the internal three drive RAID on our Mac Pro.
The other interesting thing here was the GPU usage. Resolve uses the GPU for most of its processing, and when reading/writing the files to our traditional spinning disk RAID the GPU usage hovered around 20% on our Quadro 4000. Performing the same test with the files on the iOFX pushed the GPU usage to more like 80%, unlocking the performance potential of our GPU.
Is it for me?
I think that the Fusion iO iOFX would make a great scratch drive for working with high resolution video content. It eliminates the shortcomings of traditional spinning drives, having no problem serving multiple files or reading and writing simultaneously. And it allows you to unlock the full potential of the expensive CPUs and GPUs you’re likely have in your workstation already.
We’re going to be posting more info on pricing, availability and where exactly Fusion iOFX will fit into your workflow as we get it, so keep checking back (or keep your eye on Twitter) for the latest info.
Want to know more about Fusion iO? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, reviews and updates, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.