Violin Memory Zeros In On Primary Storage Tier with New Flash Offerings

By Michael Feldman

September 27, 2011

The assault on hard disk storage seems to be building with each new flash memory offering. This week, Violin Memory launched a new solid state memory line aimed to replace primary storage in the datacenter. The Violin 6000 Series flash Memory Arrays is designed as an all-silicon storage solution for data-intensive enterprise applications, and is intended to compete against disk-based solutions in cost, both upfront and operationally.

The company also added to its 3200 Series flash lineup. Geared for maximum performance, capacity, and flexibility, the 3000 offerings are slightly lower on the storage food chain than the new 6000 line. The new entry, the 3U Violin 3220, doubles the storage capacity of the 3200 Series from 10 TB to 20 TB (16 TB usable) and delivers 250,000 IOPS.

The 6000 platform is the bigger news for the company though. It incorporates high-end enterprise features such as reliability/redundancy, high availability, serviceability, and scale-out management. As such, it extends Violins storage reach into high-end use cases for tier 1 storage, opening up a potentially much larger market. The 3U product comes in two flavors: the 6216 performance array (1M IOPS; 16 TB SLC flash, 12 TB usable) and the 6632 capacity array (500K IOPS; 32 TB MLC flash, 22 TB usable). For write endurance, the SLC-based 6216 would be the logical choice at 800 PB of writes, versus the 6632 at 100 PB.

Violin’s new 6000 and 3220 highlights the company’s focused strategy to displace traditional disk-based storage in the enterprise. Unlike many SSD vendors, who are primarily offering a high performance tier 0 cache between disk storage and memory, Violin is looking to penetrate more deeply into the datacenter. “Across our product line we believe we can deliver both lower CAPEX and OPEX for tier 0, tier 1 and tier 2 applications,” says Violin CEO Don Basile “We think we can remove those disks from the datacenter and end up with what we call a flash and trash strategy.”

A number of industry analysts, not to mention storage vendors, are touting the so-called “flash and trash” strategy, a two-tiered storage model, in which solid state drives are used for all active storage and cheap, high capacity SATA disks for data that needs saving, but not quick access. Basile argues that such a model has two big benefits: First, replacing spinning disk with solid state flash saves a boatload of money by reducing floor space and power usage; and second, storage infrastructure is simplified enormously by flattening all the active data tiers into a single layer.

Arun Taneja, founder and analyst at Taneja Group, thinks Violin is paving the path to eliminating HDD-based systems but it will take three or more years for that to happen. He also believes at least some customers are going to need other high-end features, like replication and snapshot capabilities, integrated into the storage system, which is something the initial 6000 boxes don’t support yet. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” notes Taneja. “The fact that Violin is involved in building Rome is what is really important, in my view.”

Meanwhile, Violin is picking off a lot of low-hanging fruit, especially where I/O performance is paramount. The company was in a recent bake-off in which the customer required 40 TB (usable) with 500,000 I/Os. According to Basile, for traditional vendors that mean six racks of disk, with sub-20 percent utilization. The upfront cost for the disk-based solution was about $3 million, plus more than $3 million more for operational expenses. The customer ended up with the Violin solution, a 3000 series flash array. It delivered the requisite 40 TB, along with much more than 500K I/Os at sub-$1 million CAPEX and sub-$1 million OPEX.

“That’s what our global CIOs are looking at as they make this transformation from these giant beasts that ruled the earth — these dinosaurs — to a more nimble viable infrastructure that scales,” says Basile. ” This is where we think the memory array is not a slightly better mousetrap, but a way to catch mice differently.”

Violin certainly seem to be on the right track. Since the company launched its first solid state storage product into the market just 13 months ago, they’ve been in growth-only mode. For the fiscal year ending in January, they’re expecting to take in $100 million in revenue. According to Basile, that trajectory places them about 4 years ahead of Isilon or 3PAR during their initial ramp up. “Our growth rates are faster than any storage company in history on a revenue basis,” says Basile, who as the former CEO of Fusion-io, must have a pretty good idea of what fast starts look like.

As a privately held company, Violin is living off $110 million in funding from a number of investors, the biggest ones being Toshiba (the maker of Violin’s flash memory components), Juniper Networks, and an unnamed system/storage vendor. They might be getting close to cashing in though. The company’s growth spurt has them thinking about a public offering, and, according to Basile, they are looking to file an IPO in Q1 or Q2 of 2012.

The Violin CEO thinks 2012 is shaping up to be a transition year, in which a lot of big enterprise accounts will move their data from disk to memory arrays as a core storage tier. The company is trying to quickly gear up to catch that wave, piggybacking on partner companies like IBM and HP to help reach those customers and manufacturing partner Flextronics to churn out product.
With a current head count of just over 220 employees, Violin expects to at least double that by the first quarter of 2012.

Violin’s three biggest industry targets are financial services, government, and internet properties. In partnership with HP, they’ve produced an alternative to Oracle’s popular Exadata database (DB) appliance. Besides vanilla database and analytics work, Violin storage can be used for a range of “big data” applications including backtesting trading strategies for Wall Street firms, accelerating advertising analytics for companies like AOL (where a petabyte of Violin storage is deployed), and serving up real-time advertisements to mobile clients.

In the government space, primarily US defense and intelligence, the use cases are not for public consumption, but one can safely assume that the Violin gear is behind some serious, high-IOPS data mining. The largest deployment there is just over a petabyte for an unnamed US government agency.

For HPC-type applications, the company is increasingly looking at Hadoop clustering and Cassandra/BigTable applications. In addition, they teamed with IBM to demonstrate record-breaking file system performance of Big Blue’s General Parallel File System (GPFS), using Violin 3205 flash arrays as the metadata accelerator. HPC in general seems a rich opportunity for Violin storage, especially for their 3000 series memory boxes.

The new 3220, 6216, and 6632 products are already shipping, with the new 3200 box generally available. In the case of the 6000 offerings, only Violin’s strategic partners and customers have access to them for the time being, with general availability slated for Q1 2012. Basile says they can’t make enough of them right now to keep up with demand, adding, “we’ve pretty much sold all of them for the next 12 weeks.”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Kathy Yelick Charts the Promise and Progress of Exascale Science

September 15, 2017

On Friday, Sept. 8, Kathy Yelick of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, delivered the keynote address on “Breakthrough Science at the Exascale” at the ACM Europe Conferen Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

U of Illinois, NCSA Launch First US Nanomanufacturing Node

September 14, 2017

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign together with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) have launched the United States's first computational node aimed at the development of nanomanufactu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

PGI Rolls Out Support for Volta 100 in its 2017 Compilers and Tools Suite

September 14, 2017

PGI today announced a fairly lengthy list of new features to version 17.7 of its 2017 Compilers and Tools. The centerpiece of the additions is support for the Tesla Volta 100 GPU, Nvidia’s newest flagship silicon annou Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Prepares Customers for Success with the HPC Software Portfolio

HPC environmentsHewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is committed to delivering end-to-end HPC software solutions to help customers get the most out of their HPC systems. Read more…

DARPA Pledges Another $300 Million for Post-Moore’s Readiness

September 14, 2017

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a giant funding effort to ensure the United States can sustain the pace of electronic innovation vital to both a flourishing economy and a secure military. Under the banner of the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI), some $500-$800 million will be invested in post-Moore’s Law technologies. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Kathy Yelick Charts the Promise and Progress of Exascale Science

September 15, 2017

On Friday, Sept. 8, Kathy Yelick of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, delivered the keynote address on “Breakt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Pledges Another $300 Million for Post-Moore’s Readiness

September 14, 2017

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a giant funding effort to ensure the United States can sustain the pace of electronic innovation vital to both a flourishing economy and a secure military. Under the banner of the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI), some $500-$800 million will be invested in post-Moore’s Law technologies. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Breaks Ground for Complex Quantum Chemistry

September 14, 2017

IBM has reported the use of a novel algorithm to simulate BeH2 (beryllium-hydride) on a quantum computer. This is the largest molecule so far simulated on a quantum computer. The technique, which used six qubits of a seven-qubit system, is an important step forward and may suggest an approach to simulating ever larger molecules. Read more…

By John Russell

Cubes, Culture, and a New Challenge: Trish Damkroger Talks about Life at Intel—and Why HPC Matters More Than Ever

September 13, 2017

Trish Damkroger wasn’t looking to change jobs when she attended SC15 in Austin, Texas. Capping a 15-year career within Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories, she was acting Associate Director for Computation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Her mission was to equip the lab’s scientists and research partners with resources that would advance their cutting-edge work... Read more…

By Jan Rowell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab Targets Algorithms, AI Physics

September 7, 2017

Investment continues to flow into artificial intelligence research, especially in key areas such as AI algorithms that promise to move the technology from speci Read more…

By George Leopold

Need Data Science CyberInfrastructure? Check with RENCI’s xDCI Concierge

September 6, 2017

For about a year the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) has been assembling best practices and open source components around data-driven scientific researc Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries: 7nm Chips Coming in 2018, EUV in 2019

June 13, 2017

GlobalFoundries has formally announced that its 7nm technology is ready for customer engagement with product tape outs expected for the first half of 2018. The Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This