Violin System introduces its first new product since it resurrected from bankruptcy, a NVMe fabric, ultra-low latency offering aimed at the extreme performance market, which is now the focus of Violin’s efforts.
Violin Systems has announced the Violin XVS 8, a new storage solution for the extreme performance market. Emerged from bankruptcy, and with both new funding and a laser focus on the extreme performance space, Violin is looking to do well in its core area by offering better performance and latency than legacy vendors, while providing the enterprise-class data services that are missing in many startup offerings.
“We now have a strong financial footing and a disciplined focus,” said Mark Lewis, Chair and CEO of Violin Systems. “This is the first product brought out by the new Violin Systems, which highlights the engineering capabilities of the team.”
In May Lewis replaced Ebrahim Abbasi as CEO. Abbasi had been COO in the old Violin Memory and guided it through bankruptcy and financial reorganization, but had a medical issue early in the year that ultimately led to his retirement from the company. Lewis’ assessment of the issues that undermined Violin’s technology and early first mover advantage in all-flash is quite similar to Abbasi’s. however.
“I came in as a consultant when Ebrahim was ill, and was asked by the venture company that now owns Violin [part of the Soros Fund Management hedge fund] to take over as CEO,” Lewis said. “I was shocked at how good the product was. The issue wasn’t the technology. The old Violin Memory had really messed up the process. Violin got into trouble trying to become a mass market general player without the scale and capacity to do that. When they tried to play in the big pond, it became overwhelming, trying to compete on features.”
Lewis said that many small startups today are doing something similar – trying to compete with the big storage OEMs on general purpose storage, which he considers a very high-risk strategy that is almost foreordained to fail.
“It’s a strategy that is fraught with peril, because you need scale to succeed in that market,” he emphasized. “Tintri recently failed and was bought cheap because even though they had a good product, they didn’t have the scale they needed to succeed.”
Violin Systems has a much more focused strategy. Lewis said that diverse companies like Cohesity, Nutanix and AWS have become successful in storage because they were very focused on specific things, and that’s a strategy Violin System wants to replicate.
“I’ve focused on narrowing the focus, not widening it,” he said. “We are focusing on extreme performance storage, the Tier 0 market. That’s where we are investing. That is a very fast-growing market. We can compete against bigger companies in that space, and when we can show customers better performance and better economics we will win every deal. That’s a strategy that won’t work in file storage, where what matters most is being cheap, cheap, cheap. That’s not our market.”
Lewis said Violin sees three things as essential to fit into the extreme performance market.
“First, performance to us means low latency,” he said. “The key is our transactional low latency performance, which drives every transaction-oriented application. We are 5-7 times faster in terms of latency than the legacy players. Where we can grow more beyond the Fortune 100 is in saving customers money by reducing latency and increasing performance. If we can quadruple storage performance, we can halve their server and network infrastructure costs.
“Second, the performance has to be consistent,” Lewis stressed. “Some companies have great peak numbers, but it’s very much peaks and valleys, You need consistent performance. Third, you also need to have strong enterprise data services, because we sell to the top end of the market. There are small NVMe startups comparable in performance to us, like E8 and Vexata, but they don’t have the data services.”
Apart from the low latency, which Lewis said will drop IOPS to 50 µs, which he thinks is the fastest in the world, the XVS 8 offers the ability to customize deduplication and compression per LUN.
“We have had two Flash Storage Platform products – the 7650, without dedupe, and the 7450 that had it with some cost of efficiency,” he said. “The customer has had to make a choice. With the XVS 8, it gives you a choice by LUN whether to turn dedupe on or not, so they can get appropriate performance for specific applications. You literally just select ON or OFF at the LUN level.”
Both NVMe over fabric and predictive analytics will be added in place by the beginning of the new calendar year through seamless software upgrades, Lewis said.
“The NVMe over fabric will initially be for 32Gb FC and will be upgraded by software, with no hardware change necessary at all,” he indicated. “It will significantly increase performance and scaling. The predictive analytics, AR Realtime Storage Insight, is an Augmented Reality application which provides all the system’s characteristics through a phone, so you can see how things are working, as well as any events you need to watch out for. This is available through our Symphony flash management console, or a Web portal.”
Several new integrations have been implemented in this product.
“We are adding more Splunk integration,” Lewis said. It lets customers have filtered call-home alerts into their Splunk dashboards. “We are also adding a new VMware integration with VASA 3.0, which allows granular VM control from vSphere. Not a lot of people have adopted 3.0 yet, but we think it will be important in the future.”
The original Violin Memory had a channel, but it mainly sold direct. Violin Systems, on the other hand, is entirely channel focused.
“We can provide channel partners with a good differentiated offering, and today have about 40 partners in the U.S,” Lewis said. “We are also building strategic vendor alignments with cloud storage providers, and DR companies like Zerto, but we won’t be doing significant any partnerships with other companies that compete in the space.”