I’ll never forget the first time I laid my eyes on the gorgeous Fisker Karma. Up until that point, the public was relegated to sterile hybrid, electric plug-in automobiles like the Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf which had about as much sex appeal as Martha Stewart gracing the cover of the next Victoria’s Secret catalog. The Fisker Karma promised the aesthetics and performance of a luxurious automobile out of Modena built upon green technology that would help lessen the impact to our environment. Think of it this way, now Leonardo DiCaprio could invest in a company whose automobile would look just as attractive as the supermodel he brought to the last red carpet event and all the while, maintaining the good graces of his indigenous tribe buddies in the Amazon rainforest. The world was smitten as were private investors and our own government who poured in $171 million of taxpayer money and about $1.1 billion of venture capital (VC) cash.
Unfortunately, Fisker is heading down the same path as the Delorean (the beloved icon of the 80’s), so don’t be surprised if you see it make a cameo in Back to the Future 5. Fisker should be announcing bankruptcy any day considering it still owes the government around $192 million in loans and hasn’t made a car in more than a year. All told, Fisker attracted $1.1 billion in private investment, the vast majority of which took place after it got the first Department of Energy loan.
So why did Fisker fail? It depends who you ask and I want to avoid a political discourse, so let’s stick to the most tangible explanations¹:
- Fisker’s claimed the Karma would get 67.2 MPG and 50 miles of electric range. If fell significantly short of that claim.
- The money spent by Fisker compared to the amount of cars produced was approximately $660,000 per vehicle
- The production goal for 2011 was 7,000…Fisker only shipped 1,500
- The sole supplier of lithium-ion batteries for the Karma went bankrupt
- Fisker received one of Consumer Reports’ worst ratings ever for a passenger car
- Fisker recalled the first 239 Karma plug-in hybrids there were numerous incidents of them catching on fire
- During a Consumer Reports test drive, the Fisker Karma broke down
- During Hurricane Sandy, Fisker lost about 300 Karmas
The final nail in the coffin for Fisker was when Justin Bieber reportedly gave his Fisker Karma to a friend while he was on tour because he was sick of it breaking down when trying to run from the paparazzi.
Flash Storage – It is sexy, eco-friendly and here to stay
Being the pseudo tree hugger that I am, I haven’t given up on green technology quite yet, especially in the IT industry. Flash storage is a perfect example of disruptive technology that is innovative, efficient and eco-friendly. Flash storage should be familiar to anyone who has ever used a USB thumb drive and uses electricity, has no mechanical parts and typically only consumes 20% of the power and reads more than 100 times faster than traditional mechanical hard drives (check out this excellent blog by Mike Jochimsen on why solid state disks (SSDs) are the wave of the future). Furthermore, data center managers looking for ways to address the energy drain represented by hard drives are implementing flash storage in their data centers as a way to achieve green computing or green data center benchmarks.
Businesses with I/O-intensive applications have found flash storage to be efficient and cost-effective and that’s why enterprise storage providers like EMC, chip makers like Samsung and server manufacturers like Oracle have all entered the flash storage market. Like the Fisker Karma that retailed at more than $100K, the higher cost of flash technology compared to traditional disk storage warranted a price premium but more favorable flash economics are spurring broader adoption (unlike the Fisker Karma). The good news is the price of SSDs falling so flash storage is becomes more attractive by the day and much more accessible to not just the enterprise, but also small-to-medium sized business-level IT organizations.
Key benefits of flash technology²:
- Flash based storage is faster than hard drives because they handle storage chores electronically, while their traditional counterparts rely on moving parts — specifically a spindle motor that rotates disks and a mechanical arm that reads and writes the data.
- Flash’s lack of moving parts delivers another benefit: lower energy consumption which equates to better environments footprints.
- A flash drive-equipped array that provides a 10-speed performance boost is more cost-effective than conventional technology on a cost per input/output operations per second.
- Aggregating flash as a shared resource on a storage-area network also makes the technology more affordable.
Like any mature technology, the cost of flash memory is coming down, and since storage requirements are always increasing, it isn’t surprising more and more organizations are using flash to store, transport, carry or access data quickly and reliably, whether on the move, in the office or at home. At the same time, flash storage appeals to the environmentally conscious IT organization looking to reduce their impact to the environment.
Emulex – we understand flash technology³
At Emulex, we are beginning to see the adoption of all flash appliances in the market increase as the waves of large databases and increasingly dense virtual environments demand larger data stores with higher I/O operations per second (IOPS) and lower latency. Organizations including GreenBytes with their IO Offload Engine providing an accelerated virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and Fusion-io’s ION Software Defined Storage, which can either present itself as fabric-based cache or primary storage are perfect examples. On the extreme end of the scale, companies like PureStorage and Violin Memory provide all flash arrays capable of handling very robust and demanding application environments.
Emulex is right in the middle of this evolution. Our ever-evolving Fibre Channel and Ethernet I/O connectivity solutions continue to provide the high IOPS and low latency that customers need to keep pace with the abilities of today’s high end servers and storage. Also, as SSDs, flash and cache continue to appear at new points in the I/O path, Emulex is on the leading edge of understanding how to optimize I/O architectures and provide the solutions that will keep pace with the endpoints.
Our world class monitoring solutions, OneCommand Vision and EndaceVision can ensure that the I/O channel is performing optimally and securely. The combination of these two products gives us this ability across both Fibre Channel and Ethernet fabrics. We continue to evolve these solutions in conjunction with our ecosystem partners to ensure that as databases, hypervisors, big data analytics and cloud computing evolve with technologies such as SSD and flash memory, we can continue to ensure this optimal performance.
Honey…I just bought a used Fisker Karma!
Like most luxurious cars I have lusted after, I’ve usually had to settle for the version made by Hot Wheels or Hasbro. However, things may change. As of this writing, there were about 28 separate ads for Fisker Karmas on eBay alone. It gets even better…the once $110,000 Karma has dropped in most cases by more than half and the lowest bids I’ve come across on eBay start at $40,000, with most purchases ending up between $60-$70K. Sure it wont have a warranty, my wife would leave me and I cant put three baby seats in it, but it would look great in my driveway (car exploding and catching on fire in my driveway be damned).
I want one.
1. The Washington Examiner,47 depressing facts about Fisker’s epic electric car failure, April 2013
2. FCW,Storage optimization: Flash finds some government niches,May 2013
3. Emulex Labs blog, May 2013