Violin Goes to 'Extremes' in New-Gen Storage Performance

Flash storage pioneer, which has seen hard times, has fine-tuned its strategy and is going only after what it calls the “extreme-performance” storage market. It also has a new hot-shot flash array to talk about.


Violin Systems, all but dead in IT storage bankruptcy waters a year and a half ago after failing to make a big-enough dent in markets owned by storage behemoths Dell EMC, IBM and NetApp, is making a comeback, and totally on its own terms.

This is a company with what many storage analysts thought had great technology but that its market strategy didn’t focus well enough on the right portion of the enterprise market.

So, now the news: The San Jose, Calif.-based storage hardware and software maker on Oct. 2 announced that it has fine-tuned its strategy and is only going after what it calls the “extreme-performance” storage market.

To demonstrate this, it released a new addition to the Violin Extreme Performance Storage Platform product line, the Violin XVS 8, which the company contends delivers consistent high performance with low latency and enterprise-class data services.

Violin Was a Flash Pioneer

Violin's NAND flash and dynamic RAM-based storage arrays are designed for environments that need fast processing and analyzing of large data sets. In 2011, Violin was one of the first storage companies to offer NAND flash arrays as Tier 1 storage, which is still mostly the domain of hard disk drives. However, the storage industry has evolved far beyond that, and Violin kicked it into a high gear to get back into the fast lane.

The market for solutions that can overcome the demands of traditional and new workloads is quickly growing.  Providing more immediate access to information is a proven way to increase revenue, increase customer satisfaction and reduce costs. These extreme performance systems enable data-driven organizations to deploy critical applications that support operations across the enterprise to grow their success.

“The thing that brought me into this job was the technology,” CEO Mark Lewis, a former high-ranking executive at EMC and Documentum, told eWEEK. “When I got here, I thought: 'This team has some great leadership technology. How come they went bankrupt?'”

Couldn't Sell Enough Products

Easy. It didn’t sell enough storage.

“Violin's problems were similar to what happened to Tintri,” Lewsi said. “You have companies that are small and should find a niche for themselves, focus in on a market and grow. Then they should move to a little bigger market and grow … but the team there tried to take on the big guys in a World War III kind of scenario and didn’t have the capitalization to do it.”

Tintri, a new-gen storage hardware maker, went public in June 2017. Three months ago it filed a voluntary petition for bankruptcy relief; subsequently, privately held storage company DataDirect Networks seems interested in buying Tintri's assets.

Pure Storage is another new-gen storage company in the same market.

“Pure (an all-flash hardware provider) is around today simply because people were willing to throw hundreds of millions of dollars of capital at it,” Lewis said. “It took almost a billion dollars of capital to get them to break even. They have a billion in revenue, but it took a billion in capital to get there.

Needed to Identify Its Own Strongest Market

“So we said that we have to do what Nutanix or Cohesity did: Define and build a market segment and own it. This is our comeback strategy.”

So Violin will focus on the extreme performance market, Lewis said, because “this product is all built around staying the leader there.”

Extreme performance for Lewis and Violin means three things: Ultra-low latency, consistent performance and all the data services.

“Bandwidth is the number of lanes on the highway. IOPS are the number of cars that highway can take,” Lewis said. “Yes, those matter, but at the end of the day, all I want know is how long it takes me to get to work. That's latency, that's the metric that matters. Everything else is tertiary.”

Evolving workloads are driving an increasing need for tier-0 performance for relational database as well as next generation, more real-time applications in the big data analytics arena, and these requirements are outrunning the ability of existing architectures to consistently deliver the performance needed at scale, said Eric Burgener, IDC's research vice president of server and storage infrastructure.

“Vendors like Violin Systems are targeting this space with solutions that far outrun the ability of SCSI-based all-flash platforms," Burgener said. "But what is interesting about Violin’s new offering is that it combines this class of performance with a full complement of mature, enterprise-class data services that can be selectively applied at the volume level.”

What's in the New Flash Array

Key new features of the XVS 8:

  • Single Platform with Selectable Efficiencies by LUN:  Violin simplifies the customer experience by allowing selectable deduplication and compression per LUN to enable high performance for applications requiring data efficiencies and extreme performance for applications requiring the lowest possible latency.
  • NVMe over Fibre Channel: 32Gb FC ensures performance for bigger workloads, greater scaling and better flexibility in failover configurations with IOPS performance as low as 50 microseconds.  In-place software updates enable NVMe over Fabric.
  • Cloud-Based Predictive Analytics: Uses past and present statistics to enable future tuning.  Combined with new Augmented Reality mobile application, XVS delivers real-time insight into system performance to ensure workloads metrics are being met.
  • Application Infrastructure Ecosystem Updates: XVS integrates into the Splunk> ecosystem for customers to enjoy filtered call-home alerts into their Splunk> dashboards. Implementation with VMware VASA 3.0 displays storage information within vCenter and allows fine VM-level control directly from vSphere.

Violin XVS 8 is available now through the Violin Systems Partner First Network of Value-Added-Resellers.  Additional information, including pricing, is available here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...