Violin Memory Ups Its Game

40 years ago Saturday Night Live brought us the “Not Ready For Prime Time Players”, a group of no-names that didn’t know if they would be working the next week. They went on to prove that they were ready, willing and able, and the rest is entertainment history.

In enterprise storage, the new kid on the block is flash, but like SNL’s pioneers, it’s been on the outside, looking in. That’s about to change, according to . It has announced availability of the Flash Storage Platform, billed as the ‘first storage system designed to run all primary storage and active workloads below the cost of traditional disk.’ In addition to , the company introduced new and all flash , , and software.

Violin stated that the flash storage market has grown by solving specific computing problems that are I/O bound, but the industry is ready to pivot to all-flash arrays for primary storage. “Clients have been telling us we need to up our game”, said Erik Ottem, Director of Product Marketing. “Our traditional strength has been all performance, all the time, but we had to raise our game pretty significantly”.

Customers were looking for enterprise data services, but at the same price as modular disk. “We believe the market has reached the tipping point… [where flash is] really appropriate for primary storage.”

All flash arrays can now truly be considered viable options for primary storage, and FSP maximizes the technology advantages inherent with flash, while integrating features like data reduction and protection, scalability and simple, unified management, stated the company. This engineering achievement is only made possible because of Concerto OS 7, which combines Violin’s system-level flash management and control, block-level de-duplication and compression data efficiency engine, and ‘one of the broadest sets of data management, protection, and recovery services, into a single, integrated operating system.’

The 7300 and 7700 FSP designs reduce the effective cost-per-gigabyte by more than 75% over Violin’s prior generation of arrays, and are more than 25% lower in cost-per-gigabyte than the competition, with all-flash storage for as low as $1.50 effective cost-per-gigabyte.

Originally scheduled to be prebriefed by Eric Herzog, Violin CMO and SVP of business development, that was revised when he jumped ship to IBM, where he is now VP of marketing for their storage systems. “Eric got a great offer from IBM,” said Violin CEO Kevin DeNuccio. “It’s a great opportunity for him. We wish him well.” He added that Violin Memory continues to grow, with sales climbing by double digits in the last couple of quarters.

In addition to picking up Herzog, Big Blue was also busy on the product front, unveiling IBM Spectrum Storage, a new storage software portfolio designed to address ‘data storage inefficiencies by changing the economics of storage with a layer of intelligent software.’ According to IBM, which despite its ‘infrastructure matters‘ mantra, appears to be suffering from hardware hemorrhaging, the software creates a “data footprint” that dynamically stores every bit of data at the optimal cost, helping maximize performance and security.

The most recent IDC numbers show that worldwide disk storage systems factory revenue grew 5.1% year over year to nearly $8.8 billion during the third quarter of 2014 (3Q14), led by EMC (20.8%) and IBM (14.6%). However that’s revenue, not bytes, which given the 50%-plus data growth being reported annually, storage prices continue to fall on a per-volume basis.

Albeit on a much smaller base, the flash-based array market – including all-flash arrays (AFAs) and hybrid flash arrays (HFAs) – is showing explosive growth. That market shot up to $11.3 billion last year, with traditional enterprise storage vendors, such as Dell, EMC, HDS, HP, IBM, NetApp and Oracle, jumping on board and offering flash-optimized HFAs, and in some cases AFAs.

“Vendors are aggressively flash optimizing their offerings to provide improved performance, longer endurance, higher reliability, and a lower effective cost per gigabyte,” said Eric Burgener, Research Director, Storage Systems. “The most successful vendors will be those that can make a smooth transition from the traditional, dedicated application model to mixed workload consolidation.”

IDC attributed this strengthening flash flood (close to 60% CAGR) to a combination of significant performance improvements as the technology matures, a broader range of available products, increasing levels of familiarity and comfort with the very real benefits of solid state storage technology, and steadily declining prices. It predicts the all-flash storage array market will be worth $1.2 billion by 2015, while Gartner expects the all flash storage market will be worth $4 billion by 2015.

Gartner, which launched its first Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays in 2014, said the huge disparity between CPU and disk performance over the last decade has fueled the massive growth of solid-state arrays. ‘Over the last decade, CPU performance has improved by an order of magnitude, while the performance of HDD within general-purpose storage arrays stagnated, an increasingly accentuating divergence. SSAs have corrected this imbalance by temporarily satiating the demand for storage performance. This has led to the quick and successful adoption of SSA, evidenced by the fact that the total revenue for SSA in 2013 was $667 million, with a huge year-over-year growth of 182%.’

Analysts’ Qanned Quotes:

Joe Clabby, President, Clabby Analytics: “Violin’s new helps maximize CPU performance by eliminating storage bottlenecks; high-utilization helps reduce storage costs – and low energy consumption helps cut power bills making it an option for primary storage. Flash arrays are the wave of the future for efficient storage and low cost memory.”

Scott Sinclair, Analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group: “In 2015 leading CIOs are identifying technologies that can deliver the greatest business value for their organizations, both now and in the future. Violin’s Flash Storage Platform creates a compelling value proposition for primary storage that goes way beyond the traditional cost per gigabyte analysis. Its advanced hardware architecture together with enterprise data services that include selectable, inline block level deduplication and data compression, has the potential to positively impact businesses by providing sustained performance at a reduced cost.”

David Hill, Founder & Principal, Mesabi Group: “All flash arrays can now truly be considered viable options for primary storage, and the Violin Flash Storage Platform maximizes the technology advantages inherent with flash, while integrating features like data reduction and protection, scalability and simple, unified management.”

Benjamin Woo, Founder & Managing Director, Neuralytix: “Users often focus on the cost of flash, but not on what data services flash offers. Violin’s new Flash Storage Platform builds on its maturity in flash solutions and provides users with a full enterprise storage experience, with the performance of flash.”

James Bagley, Senior Analyst, SSG-Now: “With its new Flash Storage Platform, Violin Memory now delivers a powerful tool to efficiently maximize primary storage requirements. By allowing users to manage inline block deduplication and compression at a granular level through a single interface, this new platform offers tremendous flexibility in allowing data centers managers to meet the demanding and varied requirements of today’s IT environments.”

George Crump, President & Founder, Storage Switzerland: “Many flash arrays will meet the performance requirements of most data centers today, but will be challenged to keep up with more densely populated virtual machines or high user-count databases. The Violin Flash Storage Platform seems to be able to meet this requirement, and still provide all the data services that data centers expect from primary storage.”

David Floyer, CTO & Co-Founder,Wikibon: “Over the last year, Violin has focused on introducing enterprise data services to support their flash products, and the Flash Storage Platform is another good step forward for the company. The low-latency flash paired with a new operating system and management features elevates the Flash Storage Platform as a good option for enterprise primary storage.”

Ottem said the 7300 is already shipping, and the 7700 will start shipping in March. As for the future, he said Violin needs to beef up its cloud credentials.

The Fiddly Bits (& Bytes)
In addition to integrating a wide range of data services into the operating system for performance, reliability, and scalability, Violin has added user selectable, block-level inline de-duplication and compression on the 7300 FSP to give customers maximum storage efficiency. Delivering up to 217TB of effective capacity in 3 rack units at a data reduction rate of 6:1, the 7300 FSP supports mixed and multiple workload environments across an entire range of primary storage requirements.

The 7300 FSP unique combination of high-performance and efficient data-reduction makes it the leading and most cost-efficient solution for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments, supporting up to 5,000 persistent virtual desktops per system.

The Violin 7300E FSP provides the same capabilities and features as the 7300, but at an entry-point as low as 34TB effective. With the company’s “Pay-As-You-Grow” capacity licensing model the 7300E can be expanded seamlessly and without any additional hardware upgrades all the way up to 125TB effective in a compact and cost effective 3 rack unit foot print.

The 7700 FSP is targeted at large, multi-petabyte and multi-site deployments for customers that look for ultimate scale, availability and flexibility. Powered by Concerto OS 7, it provides over 1.3 petabytes of effective capacity or serves 20,000 persistent virtual desktops across six shelves, and adds synchronous replication and stretch cluster capabilities to the menu of data protection services.

The 7700 FSP also provides an excellent investment protection path for existing Violin 6000 series and 7000 series all-flash array (AFA) customers, as these all-flash arrays can now upgrade to a 7700 FSP, taking advantage of the Concerto OS 7 industry-leading feature set and Symphony 3 revolutionary storage management experience.

Concerto OS 7 combines the best of vMOS 5, Violin’s previous operating system, and the Concerto data management and inline data-reduction capabilities into a single and integrated software image that powers all current and future generations of Violin’s Flash Storage Platforms.

The Symphony Management Console, bundled with the 7300 FSP and 7700 FSP, enables simple management of Violin Flash Storage Platforms from a single, powerful interface. With granular control over enterprise-grade data services, customized health monitoring, real-time analytics and advanced reporting, Symphony 3 delivers detailed, automated and centralized management of a customer’s entire Violin environment.

Author: Steve Wexler

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