Violin Memory introduces Flash Storage Platform designed for primary storage

Violin’s new platform is the first all-flash storage system designed to run all primary storage for less than traditional spinning disks, and should significantly expand what to date has been a limited North American channel presence.

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The Symphony interface on the new Violin Flash Storage Platform

Today, all-flash storage array vendor Violin Memory is making a play for the primary storage market with its new Flash Storage Platform, which includes the new 7300 and 7700 all flash arrays, Concerto OS 7 software, and Symphony management software. It should broaden their market presence, and should also have the effect of building up their partner channel in North America,

“This is all about primary storage,” said Erik Ottem, Director of Product Marketing at Violin. “The market has hit a tipping point where flash is now looked at for more than solving a database problem.” While the flash market has previously been largely focused on solving specific I/O computing pain points, Violin believes that this new solution can break through this traditional role, and make inroads into the broad market served by spinning disk arrays.

“This is definitely an offensive move,” Ottem said. “We are throwing down the glove. We’ve been working on this for a couple years, because we wanted to move beyond the traditional niche of database and VDI problems. This platform has the right combination of features, performance and price to take over primary storage.”

Ottem said that the pricing, though not yet finalized, will actually be flat compared to previous Violin arrays. The difference is that Violin has added a range of features, and enterprise data services in the Concerto OS, without increasing the price, greatly improving the price/performance ratio. The effective cost-per-gigabyte has been reduced by more than 75 per cent over the previous generation, which for large arrays brings the cost as low as $1.50 effective per-gigabyte.

“We now offer more features and functions for the same price,” Ottem said. “You won’t find other all flash arrays with this functionality and enterprise data services unless you have another appliance with it.” These include app consistent snapshots, continuous data protection, replication, granular data reduction, and user selectable, native block-level inline de-duplication and compression on the 7300 FSP.

“Even XtremeIO [EMC] and Pure don’t have a full set of enterprise features like this, and by putting it all in one box we are sending up industry standards,” Ottem said.

“We had to make some hardware changes and a ton of software changes,” Ottem noted. “We changed all the guts of this – including the flash chips we were using. Everything inside the box has been updated except the fans.”

The Concerto OS 7 combines Violin’s system-level flash management and control, block-level de-duplication and compression data efficiency engine, and the data management, protection, and recovery services, into a single, integrated operating system.

“We needed to have dedupe and compression, and because we were late to the party there, we needed to go further, which we did,” Ottem said.

The single Concerto interface also remedies a previous problem.

“Because of our growing pains, we might need three different GUIs before, and our customers told us that wasn’t really acceptable,” Ottem said. “It has been consolidated so you can manage your Violin environment with one GUI. It was an irritant that needed to get fixed.”

Two new platform models were announced, the 7300 and 7700. Both have the same code base, which makes it easier for Violin to support and extend new features.

“There is a schism in how higher end organizations manage storage compared to the mid-tier,” Ottem said. “The higher tier want every button and knob available so they can fine tune things. The mid-tier is more the ‘press the button and go’ type. We had to rethink management to handle both.”

The 7300 has two versions, the 7300 and 7300E, with the E standing for Entry. The 7300 delivers up to 217TB of effective capacity in three rack units at a data reduction rate of 6:1, while the 7300E starts as low as 11 TB (the previous low was 17.5) and scales up to 125 TB. The Violin 7700 FSP six-shelf configuration exceeds 1.3 petabytes effective in 24 rack units All feature 700,000 IOPS performance at 1 ms latency for high workloads, and up to a million IOPS for all-read workloads.

“The previous generation was 500,000 IOPS, so we have increased this considerably even with all the new services packed in,” Ottem said.

All are available now in 16Gb FC, or 10Gb iSCSI connectivity, with 40Gb iSCSI coming by mid-year.

“Customers can take their existing 6000 arrays and plug them into the 7700 for data services,” Ottem said. “It’s a great way to extend their useful life, as customers don’t want to replace their 6000 investments yet. We will also continue to sell our 6000 arrays at least for the rest of the year. They are point products with minimal data services, and are great for that role.”

The new platforms, their new price performance ratios, and the possibility of challenging in large mainstream deployments should open up new channel opportunities, particularly in North America, where Violin’s channel has been more limited.

“The early feedback from partners has been very positive because they are looking for alternatives to the big boys,” Ottem said. “We will be beefing up our channel presence in North America in 2015, where we have had more of a direct presence compared to elsewhere. It’s a great opportunity for us to open doors for channel partners in North America.”