MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Scale-out memory platform maker Violin Memory has introduced a new array that allows Microsoft enterprise applications to run natively on the platform to reduce latency and improve performance.
Applications such as SQL Server, SharePoint, and Exchange, as well as Windows Server Hyper-V virtualization and Server Message Block (SMB) file services, can now access persistent memory directly on a Violin array, says Narayan Venkat, Violin’s VP of products. Persistent memory currently comes in the form of flash because it is the most economical.
Venkat says the partnership with Microsoft to optimize Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 can help organizations scale out performance and capacity for their Microsoft-based clouds. Microsoft made changes to its kernel to ensure it draws the maximum performance running natively on Violin’s platform. In addition to native server integration, customers can now run native Windows applications close to persistent memory. Because the Violin array supports Microsoft SMB file services, data and applications are easily and quickly moved between Windows Server 2012 and the Azure cloud service.
One of the common uses of flash memory in storage arrays is to move frequently accessed data from a slower disk to flash in order to reduce latency. Venkat says customers are also looking to accelerate applications.
Each of Violin’s memory arrays can deliver more than 1 million IOPS, scale, has 8 TB to 64 TB of memory capacity, support sub-second failover, and provide I/O access with latency in microseconds. An Enterprise Strategy Group Lab Validation report found through hands-on testing that the Violin Memory 6000 Series flash Memory Storage array can support nearly 1.4 million IOPS in two 3U flash Memory Arrays.
Mark Peters, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, says Violin’s partnership with Microsoft reflects the growing use of flash, particularly the increasing use of it next to the application in the server. He says this trend will continue as the economics of using flash improve as well.
Jim Handy, principal analyst at Objective Analysis, says Violin’s platform is different in that it allows processing powering to scale linearly with added hardware. What’s also notable is it doesn’t just allow for moving frequently accessed data to persistent memory, but also applications. “Let’s say you have a software program that consumes 100 gigabytes and you have a terabyte of data. You’ve got 10 times as much data as you have program. Which is the easiest thing to move around: the program or the data?”
Handy says moving the smaller application to faster memory rather than the larger data will result in better throughput. One of the reasons this is feasible is that computing has become cheap and pervasive, and now can be done within the storage. Flash SSD is also coming down in price, although the question of affordability is relative, he says.
“Today’s SSD costs about the same per gigabyte as a hard drive cost five years ago,” says Handy. “But SSD is not considered economical because hard drives are now less than a tenth the cost per gigabyte than they were five years ago.” The cost of SSDs are going down, but hard drives will always be cheaper, he says.
Handy says Violin is in competition with a number of incumbent storage vendors that are incorporating flash into their offerings. The advantage incumbents have is time-tested architectures that customers are comfortable with already -- they can make incremental changes to incorporate SSDs.
Incumbents include Dell with its Compellent arrays and NetApp with its FlashRay storage arrays. Cisco recently announced the acquisition of solid-state virtual-memory systems maker Whiptail. Meanwhile, niche players and startups include Pure Storage and Skyera.