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Violin gets funding from Toshiba, Juniper; HP too?

Flash memory array startup Violin Memory today said it received $35 million in funding, naming NAND flash maker Toshiba America and networking vendor Juniper Networks as investors. There were other investors not named, including one that sounds a lot like Hewlett-Packard.

Violin’s press release said Toshiba and Juniper were investors, “along with other corporate partners, crossover investment funds, high net worth industry leaders and private equity general partners.” In an interview with StorageSoup, Violin Memory CEO Don Basile said the other investors include a “large storage and systems company that doesn’t want to be named.”

Basile wouldn’t confirm or deny if that partner was HP, but said the investor was a company that Violin has worked with. HP last June posted blazing fast online transaction processing (OLTP) benchmarks using four Violin Memory Arrays with HP ProLiant Blade Servers, marking the first time HP used another vendor’s memory system in that type of benchmark. There have been whispers as well as published reports in recent weeks that HP and Violin are working on deepenning their relationship.

Basile said the new investors will lead to partnerships that will boost Violin’s distribution. He said two major trends are poised to drive Flash storage implementation. He credited Oracle CEO Larry Ellison with identifying the first trend last year when he said Oracle would use flash to speed up its databases. The second trend Basile sees is for flash to provide a foundation for building private clouds. That’s where Juniper comes in.

“Juniper exists in the highest end of data centers, and paired with a memory array like Violin’s, it can enable private clouds to be built,” Basile said. “We have [flash] in processors, and now we’ll have higher performance networking and I/O tiers to match those processors. This is something that will start to be talked about this year, and in 2012 people will start to roll out cloud services based on these technologies.”

Basile said the funding will allow Violin to double its headcount this year, mostly by expanding its sales and engineering. The company current has just over 100 employees. He also promised new product rollouts in the coming months. Violin’s current products include a 3200 Flash Memory Array, a 3140 Capacity Flash Memory Array, and a vCache NFS caching device built on technology it acquired last year from Gear6.

Violin and Toshiba announced a strategic partnership last April, disclosing that Violin is using Toshiba’s NAND flash chips.

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