Violin is starting to be heard by flash array pioneers

Nikolay Yamakawa, Analyst for TheInfoPro

All-solid-state arrays, also known as all-flash arrays, remain a niche solution in enterprise storage, but some early adopters seem to have already taken notice of some players in the field, such as Violin Memory. In 2013, only 6% of TheInfoPro’s Wave 17 Storage Study respondents reported ‘in use’ cases of the technology, and a further 5% indicated in-pilot/evaluation projects and near-term plans. Given the high cost of all-solid-state arrays, the spending intentions for the technology are quite conservative compared to other solid-state storage options, as only 8% of respondents plan to increase spending in 2013.

All-solid-state arrays

The high cost of all-solid-state arrays is not prohibitive in all cases, as some storage pros are starting to justify the investment by broader considerations in other areas. Specifically, power and cooling costs, capacity efficiency through compression and deduplication, and savings in floor space are factors that establish an expanded view of the ROI.

Violin Memory, a startup company with an experienced management team, came out as a leading vendor in the emerging all-flash-array market, ahead of some notable IT giants, including EMC and IBM. IBM probably anticipated a higher position in the all-flash-array market, following its acquisition of Texas Memory Systems last October, estimated at $250m by 451 Research. WhipTail is another startup that appeared above the noise level in the all-solid-state market. Even though Violin Memory has fewer in-pilot/evaluation projects than the trailing EMC, WhipTail and Microsoft, the number of survey respondents indicating near-term project intentions for the company surpassed that of the competition. Early this week, Violin Memory filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in regards to the proposed IPO, which will be especially interesting to watch.

Currently, all-solid-state-array technology is being used as a point solution for specific problems. The technology is not yet achieving the status of an equal-value replacement for legacy systems.

The following narratives were provided by the commentator network on all-solid-state arrays:

  • “We think costs are simply prohibitive [all-solid-state arrays]. We’ll use autotiering. To address hot spots.” – LE, Services: Business/Accounting/Engineering
  • “We are moving all Tier 1 storage from high-performance rotating disks to all-solid-state arrays. We find it cheaper. The rotating tier one costs $3-4/GB. The SSD costs us about $5/GB. We save more than $1/GB on power savings and floor space reduction.” – LE, Other
  • “Performance on the product [Violin Memory] is excellent. Reliability is excellent.” – LE, Other
  • “Violin and other non-traditional vendors are coming up with some interesting performance-oriented solutions. SSD is an example; traditional vendors take too long to integrate SSD into their offerings.” – LE, Telecom/Technology

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