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Violin launches Flash Storage Platform for performance, price

Violin Memory put out its fastest array to date, and an entry-level model that starts at $92,000, as it tries to balance its Flash Storage Platform for performance and storage management.

All-flash storage pioneer Violin Memory Inc. today added high-performance and entry-level arrays to its Flash Storage Platform (FSP), which launched earlier this year.

The new FSP 7600 is Violin's fastest system, and the FSP 7250 capacity-optimized system starts at $92,000 for 8 TB of capacity. The systems join the FSP 7300 that rolled out last February, with storage services such as block-level inline deduplication and compression, snapshots, replication and continuous data protection

Like the Flash Storage Platform 7300, the new systems use Violin's Concerto OS 7, which includes the storage services. All three arrays can run inside the FSP 7700 modular system that lets customers scale up to 1.4 PB, 2.2 million IOPS and less than one millisecond latency in a single namespace. The FSP 7700 holds six shelves, which can be filled with any mix of Flash Storage Platform 7600, 7300 and 7250 storage. Violin also upgraded the controller for the FSP 7700, which launched in March.

Violin was among the first all-flash storage vendors, shipping its first array in 2008. Violin uses custom-built flash modules, called Violin Intelligent Memory Modules (VIMM), instead of solid-state drives. The vendor began with pure performance flash systems, and was slow to embrace data management and protection features. By the time it added those features with the FSP 7300, others -- such as EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dell, Pure Storage and SolidFire -- had flash systems that could be used for primary storage, while Violin was relegated to niche use cases.

The FSP 7600 forgoes the data deduplication in other Flash Storage Platform models for the sake of performance. It does include the Flash Storage Platform's other protection and management features.

"We started at high-end performance, where many customers made their first foray into using flash," said Amy Love, chief marketing officer at Violin. "Then, they shifted to meeting the needs of virtualization, while Violin stayed with performance. So, we retooled our product set with the FSP to go after primary storage. This [FSP 7600] brings us back to our roots of performance."

Violin claimed the FSP 7600 can deliver 1.1 million IOPS with 500 microsecond latency, and it scales from 35 TB to 140 TB of raw capacity in a 3U chassis.

Violin claimed the FSP 7600 can deliver 1.1 million IOPS with 500 microsecond latency, and it scales from 35 TB to 140 TB of raw capacity in a 3U chassis.

"We want to maintain our leadership in performance," said Sudhir Prasad, Violin's senior director of product management.

Violin doubled the capacity of VIMM in the FSP 7600 to 2 TB. Prasad said the vendor also optimized the firmware of the VIMM and upgraded CPUs to get a speed bump.

The capacity-optimized FSP 7250 scales from 8 TB to 26 TB in a 3U box, and Violin claimed it can provide a maximum of 92 TB of effective capacity with deduplication and compression. Deduplication is always on with the 7250 -- it is optional for the 7300).

Violin offers the same pay-as-you-go pricing for the new systems as with the FSP 7300. The FSP 7600 and 7250 will be available this month.

Prasad said he expects the FSP 7600 to compete with other performance-oriented flash systems, such as the IBM FlashSystem, and the FSP 7250 will compete with the likes of EMC XtremIO and Pure Storage for heavily virtualized workloads. He said the FSP 7300 competes mainly with legacy high-end disk arrays, such as EMC VMAX and Hitachi Data Systems VSP, for primary storage.

Violin used its early flash lead to become a public company in 2013, but has struggled since, with revenue declines and heavy losses. Violin's $60.2 million in revenue in 2014 placed it sixth in the all-flash market, with 4.3% share, according to Gartner, and is behind that pace in 2015 despite a boom in overall flash sales.

Tim Stammers, analyst at 451 Research, said the FSP 7250 fills in a gap on the low end for Violin and should make it more competitive. He said Violin faces a tough road to make it back among the flash leaders, but it has been busy making improvements.

"You have to admire Violin, because they are still in the game and trying hard," Stammers said. "They were clear leaders three or four years ago, and always had a reputation for speed."

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