Violin Memory, Toshiba Sign New Partnership for PCIe Storage

In return for being a premier supplier of NAND flash to Violin -- guaranteeing delivery in case of product shortages -- Toshiba will have IP access to Violin's PCIe architecture and software.

Memory-based storage systems maker Violin Memory said March 4 that it is partnering with NAND flash inventor Toshiba to share intellectual property and produce new PCIe cards for servers.

In return for being a premier supplier of NAND flash to Violin -- guaranteeing delivery in case of product shortages -- Toshiba will have IP access to Violin's PCIe architecture and software for memory-based storage, ranging from storage arrays to PCIe cards.

The Toshiba alliance enables Violin to have full visibility and control of the supply chain, manufacturing, distribution and R&D efforts at the foundry, chip and software layer.

Violin Memory is positioning the partnership as facilitating mass adoption of a new "economic" memory-based IT infrastructure, which is news in itself. At this time, any type of NAND flash-based storage can be up to five or 10 times more expensive than standard hard disk drives or digital tape.

PCIe Cards Are Speed Demons

The payback with solid-state, of course, is in the tremendously higher-speed performance it offers. PCIe cards are among the fastest server components now available.

Intel introduced Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) in 2004. It is a computer expansion-card standard based on point-to-point serial links rather than a shared parallel bus architecture, and replaces the older PCI, PCI-X and AGP standards.

PCIe-based flash storage has the ability to bypass traditional storage overhead by reducing latencies, increasing throughput and enabling efficient processing of massive quantities of data.

"In the past, Toshiba has been an investor and a strategic supplier to us. This announcement is about us broadening our relationship in terms of supply-chain control," Violin Memory Vice-President of Products Narayan Venkat told eWEEK.

"As we get into the new market of server side in addition to the storage side of the flash memory market, having a guaranteed supply of flash is an important attribute to becoming a viable enterprise vendor."

Toshiba May Move into Enterprise Market

Under the agreement, Toshiba will be able to remanufacture Violin's products as they are using Violin's IP blueprints or "bring out new products based on the IP that suits the market that they service," Venkat said.

"They (Toshiba) is certainly a huge consumer and midmarket play. Our focus is the enterprise, and the combination of the two is to deliver memory-based storage across the globe," Venkat said.

Because Violin Memory's Velocity PCIe cards use a lightweight driver, CEO Don Basile said, expensive host CPU and DRAM resources are not required, so costs are saved. Application performance is not compromised, he said.

Loads of Storage Capacity

The Velocity product line includes 1.37TB to 11TB of capacity (per card) ranging from $3/GB to $6/GB list price and form factors that range from low profile to full height and full length.

"Our new focus on PCIe cards will allow both companies to drive radical new economics that lead to the mass adoption of memory-based architectures," Basile said. "NAND memory is now a requirement at every level from the smart connected device to the core of the cloud and the enterprise data center. The combined product portfolios continue leadership across the evolving memory-based solution market."

"The PCIe card market is important to Toshiba's customers," said Hiroyuki Sato, Toshiba's Vice President of Storage Products. "Expanding our strategic relationship with Violin Memory will allow us to bring the valuable Violin enterprise IP to a broad range of solutions in our future product offerings."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...