Violin: “In the data center, no one can hear you scream!”

While Violin Memory brought a momentary shot of excitement to my day with the tag line for its latest product announcement — enterprise data services software on the , it was apparently intended to refer to what happens when you lose your data, not what happens when a ravenous Alien stows away on your spaceship. Oops.

The new software will silence those screams, said the flash memory vendor’s CMO & SVP Business Development, Eric Herzog. “In general, the all-flash vendors, not just Violin, have had a dearth of data center services.”

Flash is not expensive, but you need the data services, he said. “We’re delivering to the market a comprehensive set of data-center services.”

These services include: synchronous and and capabilities; ; ; LUN and expansion; as well as advanced and storage . According to a cornucopia of canned quotes from many of the leading storage analysts, these services should prove just as welcome as Ripley in monster-killing mode.

-Ben Woo, Managing Director, Neuralytix: “’s announcement of Concerto 7000 represents a unique approach to combining the relevant data services with an optimized flash platform.”

-Tom Coughlin, Founder, Coughlin Associates: “Flash arrays have proven their worth for acceleration of individual applications, but their use in more general business applications has been hampered by the lack of flash services that support some basic business requirements. With products such as Violin’s Concerto, the barriers to general business adoption of flash arrays for mixed concurrent workloads should be much lower, increasing the penetration of flash products into more general enterprise applications.”

-George Crump, Founder, Storage Switzerland: “Violin Memory Concerto is the missing link for enterprises looking for a no compromise all-flash array experience. Violin already offered the critical flash defined hardware platform with their memory arrays. Now with Concerto they are delivering ALL the enterprise features the enterprises expect. This includes a feature that many offerings curiously leave out replication. Flash optimized storage architectures are the future and with Concerto, Violin is providing a modern enterprise offering built to host the market’s most challenging mixed workloads while delivering the reliability, availability, scalability and management features that businesses require.”

-Greg Wong, Founder, Principal Analyst, Forward Insights: “The storage market has always been plagued by an over emphasis on dollar per gigabyte. Now it’s about the cost per data center. An all-flash array is a negative cost to the CIO when a solution brings together a one-of-a-kind hardware architecture and advanced software features to sustain enterprise workload performance while reducing hardware, software licenses and power.”

-Tim Stammers, Senior Analyst, 451 Group: “Violin has led the adoption of all-flash storage systems by both enterprises and service providers. Now, Violin is driving flash usage to encompass a wider range of applications. Data center operators need storage systems that not only meet ever-growing performance challenges, but also offer sophisticated data management and protection services. That is what Violin is providing with its new 7000 series storage system, and Concerto software.”

-Jim Handy, Director, Objective Analysis: “Forward-thinking CIOs use flash to lower their costs, but there are still many who hesitate to try the technology. Many argue that they can’t afford the huge gap between flash and HDD price per gigabyte, but they lose sight of the fact that the system’s capital and operating costs both dramatically drop once flash is applied. In the end, the argument boils down to how much the CIO is willing to spend to avoid using flash.

-David Hill, Principal, Mesabi Group: “We now see the tipping point for all flash array adoption. Without sophisticated data services, most large enterprises hesitated to make the switch to support the entire business on flash. Now with Violin’s Concerto, these workload heavy organizations now have good reason to consider making the leap into an all-silicon data center for concurrent mixed workloads.”

-Stu Miniman, Principal Research Contributor, Wikibon: “As flash solutions permeate the enterprise, they must deliver a full suite of storage services in addition to delivering high performance. Users are looking to go beyond tactical deployments that solve the need of a single application and therefore functionality like non-disruptive software and hot swapability are essential to prevent down time. Violin Memory has combined its home grown data management features with its flash array architecture to do just that. The Concerto 7000 delivered comprehensive data services on an all-flash array architecture, to help accelerate the adoption of flash memory in the enterprise.”

-Mark Peters, Senior Analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group: “Vendors and users alike are realizing that the long term value of, and opportunity for, All Flash Arrays is as an integrated IT technology with high functionality, rather than as an independent market selling speed alone. While Violin’s early – albeit strikingly successful – history focused almost exclusively on ultra-performance, the company is to be commended for this comprehensive Concerto release. In combination with its proven performance, large and happy customer base, and a new management team and energy, Violin once again has all the right ingredients to compete strongly in the contemporary All Flash Array market.”

“Flash is at the economic tipping point for the data center,” said Herzog. “Cost per gigabyte doesn’t matter at all.” If it was just cost per gig, then we would still be using tape, he said.

With cost per gig no longer a barrier to entry into the data center, and now a suite of enterprise-class storage services available (joining new software offerings from flash vendors like Kaminario and Pure Storage), what’s already been a hot market will really heat up, Herzog said.

According to a recent Storage Switzerland video, for most companies that are considering flash-based SSDs, it’s no longer a question of whether they’ll implement solid state drives, but when and how. With more products to choose from and their cost decreasing, SSDs are not just for the ‘bleeding edge’ use cases any more.

Violin said there are a number of reasons to choose flash, especially all-flash:
-if you need an advantage over the competition;
-if you need to run more workloads at less expense;
-if you need to mine Big Data for missed sales opportunities;
-if you need to lower costs for power, cooling and floor space;
-if you need to enable new business models for new sources of revenue; and,
-if your Storage Administrators are tired of screaming over spinning hardware!

The Santa Clara-based flash vendor, founded in 2005, just made a big splash at last month’s Microsoft TechEd 2014 when it formally launched its Windows Flash Array. Developed together with Microsoft, WFA is billed as the first all-flash storage array powered by Windows Storage Server 2012 R2.

Customer WFA beta results were impressive. The write performance with 2012 SQL Server was two times better, with read performance up to 50% higher over standard all-flash array connected via Fibre Channel. Write performance in Hyper-V environments was up to 40% higher.

Mike Leone, ESG Lab Engineer, called Windows Flash Array the combination of the best of both worlds: Violin storage hardware and Microsoft storage software. ESG Lab VP Brian Garrett said they were “blown away” with WFA. “This unique partnership has created a one of a kind solution that dramatically increases the performance and efficiency of business-critical application workloads like Microsoft SQL Server and VDI.”

So where does Violin go from here? For the WFA launch, Herzog said the company was working on existing and upcoming partnerships, and that in addition to announcements with SAP, Oracle and Citrix, it will be announcing certification with SAP HANA shortly, he said.

“Flash is at the same tipping point of economics that everybody moved to disk [from tape].” Herzog expects that trend to accelerate, and Violin to benefit accordingly.

The Fiddly Bits (& Bytes)
With raw capacity scaling to 280TB in a fully configured, super-dense 18RU, low power footprint, Concerto 7000 features include:
-Business Continuity — Remote asynchronous replication; Synchronous replication; Local/Metro; Zero RPO and RTO for stretch clusters; Automated App DR management; WAN optimized replication; Consistency Groups for replication
-Data Protection — Snapshots (app & crash consistent); Consistency Groups for snapshots; Continuous data protection; Transparent LUN mirroring; Backup app integration
Data Scaling — Scale-up to 280TB raw; Capacity pooling across shelves; Online expansion of capacity; Online LUN expansion; Single name space across shelves
-Data Efficiency — Snapshots (app consistent, writable); Thin Provisioning; Thin Clones
Current 6000 series all-flash array customers can also take advantage of these new capabilities with the Concerto 7000 upgrade kit.

Author: Steve Wexler

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