Hardware Matters More Than Ever

Violin Briefing Note

The storage industry is going through growing pains. Especially over the last two and a half years as it tries to adapt to flash storage, cloud storage and software-defined storage. Pillars of the industry struggle to meet their numbers and new companies have to deal with the growing pains of moving from startup to public entity. Violin Memory came out of startup mode and became a public company in September of 2013, at the same time the industry began this transition.

Violin has excellent hardware, and hardware matters even in a software-defined, flash memory world. Unfortunately for Violin, the importance of hardware design in flash systems is lost on most of the press and analyst community. In a software-defined world why is flash hardware so critical? It all comes down to latency. Flash media is extremely low latent and will expose latency in poor hardware designs.

In 2016 Hardware Matters More

In the early days of flash storage systems the raw performance boost was enough that poor hardware design was potentially less of an issue. Now however, application owners are expecting flash and are developing products with flash performance in mind.

Hardware that in 2014 was thought to have too much performance does not have enough performance today. Users want real-time responses and most flash arrays can’t deliver it.

Violin’s hardware was originally designed to support DRAM, which is faster than flash, making ideal for the first generation of applications built from the ground up for flash storage. Nailing the hardware is much harder than nailing the software.

A Quick Review

Violin’s flash arrays don’t use off the shelf SSDs. Instead Violin integrates memory modules into a bus optimized for a high performance and low latency. The systems both scale up and scale out depending on your needs. Violin also adds a full compliment of software to their hardware with features like deduplication, compression, snapshots and replication.

The systems are available to purchase in three ways. First the system is available in the traditional style, paying upfront for exactly what you need. The second option has a lot of capacity, but you only pay for it as you consume it. Then third the system is a fully subscribed model and that price can go up or down based on consumption and need.

Violin has some very compelling new products that we were able to preview that promise to set a new standard in performance and low latency for enterprise class all-flash arrays. Look for more details on those products soon.

StorageSwiss Take

Violin has been a bit maligned lately but there is a lot to like in this company. First, it nails the hardware and that’s the hard part. Yes, software is what we interface with, but in flash, hardware is what makes the difference.

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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Posted in Briefing Note

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