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Violin, Stratoscale data storage technologies rise from dust

StorCentric's data storage technologies added Violin Systems in a bargain pickup last year. Zadara this week snagged the remnants of Stratoscale's HCI software.

The data storage technologies of Violin Systems and Stratoscale reemerged this week, reflecting new corporate ownership. Now it's time to see if the next go-round yields better results.

Storage holding company StorCentric launched a new Violin Systems midrange array, the first product set since acquiring the all-flash vendor last year. This is the second reset for Violin, which struggled to find its footing despite being one of the first vendors to engineer an all-flash storage system.

Meanwhile, storage-as-a-service vendor Zadara scooped up the assets of Stratoscale, a hyper-converged software startup that shuttered operations in 2019. Stratoscale adds a compute layer to Zadara's unified storage in the public cloud.

Violin auditions QV Series

StorCentric last year acquired Violin Systems for an undisclosed sum, continuing its practice of collecting struggling vendors with mature storage technologies. Other StorCentric purchases include SAN provider Nexsan, NVMe startup Vexata and data protection specialist Retrospect. Nexsan merged with NAS vendor Drobo in 2018 to form StorCentric.

Violin had a meteoric rise to the public market in 2013, fueled by sustained demand for high-performance storage. Yet despite owning more than 60 patents, Violin couldn't parlay its engineering into profitability, mostly because it lagged competitors in developing a flash management software stack.

Violin is in the bell shape of the curve right now. They don't give bleeding-edge performance anymore.
Marc StaimerPresident and chief analyst, Dragonslayer Consulting

The latest Violin all-flash array is the QV1020, billed as a midrange complement to its QV2020 array. The QV1020 starts with raw capacity of 15 TB to 116 TB, which is the starting capacity for the QV2020. Both arrays are rated to deliver 500,000 IOPS with microsecond latency. The QV Series systems are Violin's first to support NVMe SSDs, but the arrays lack native NVMe over Fabrics.

Violin aims the QV arrays at the crowded midrange market, pitting it against Dell EMC PowerStore, Hitachi Vantara Virtual Storage Array, HPE Primera, IBM FlashSystem, NetApp EFF and Pure Storage FlashArray, along with software-defined NAS vendors like SoftNAS and scale-out player Qumulo.

The competitive challenge is even greater now for Violin, said Marc Staimer, president at Dragon Slayer Consulting in Beaverton, Ore. When Violin first emerged, its arrays strived to serve data workloads needing extreme performance, Staimer said.

"Violin is in the bell shape of the curve right now," he said. "They don't give bleeding-edge performance anymore. There is no unique problem that they solve. The only thing they changed in this version is the addition of NVMe SSDs, which top out at 24 drives. It's a nice, compact 2U unit, but there are a lot of nice, compact 2U units out there."

He said Violin will need to be "disruptive" in its pricing to have a chance.

"The only way I could see this winning in the market is if they took a next-gen model and price it below market," Staimer said.

QV-Series midrange all-flash array from Violin Systems
Violin Systems' QV-Series midrange all-flash array

Zadara: Object storage needs fast compute

Zadara SaaS supports block, file and object storage that is accessible in the public cloud. The vendor this week acquired NeoKarm, a cloud computing startup formed from the assets of Stratoscale. The companies did not disclose the acquisition price.

Stratoscale Symphony open source software turns x86 servers into a low-cost HCI deployment. Stratoscale launched its product in 2016, aided by funding from IT heavyweights, including Cisco, Intel and Qualcomm. That money wasn't enough for Stratoscale to contend with HCI market leaders Nutanix and VMware, and the startup disbanded after an unsuccessful merger attempt.

Stratoscale will enable enterprise and hyper-scale customers to build AWS-like cloud services on premises using Zadara storage, said Zadara CEO Nelson Nahum. Zadara and NeoKarm have about 20 mutual cloud customers. Nahum cited growing customer demand for object storage as impetus for the deal.

"We have had a lot of success with object storage the last couple of years," he said. "There is a [need] for compute to flow to the storage, so data can be analyzed or used however you need. That was the genesis [of acquiring NeoKarm]."

Ctera, HPE extend partnership

Other data storage technologies news this week included an expanded partnership between cloud file vendor Ctera and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

Ctera and HPE have partnered for several years. The latest collaboration, called Ctera File for HPE Nimble Storage dHCI converged infrastructure, adds NAS file services to Nimble's hybrid SAN arrays. The vendors launched Ctera File for HPE SimpliVity hyper-converged infrastructure last May.

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