Violin Memory – Sounds a lot better than it used to

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 8.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

For each of the presentations I attended at SFD8, there are a few things I want to include in the post. Firstly, you can see video footage of the Violin Memory presentation here. You can also download my raw notes from the presentation here. Finally, here’s a link to the Violin Memory website that covers some of what they presented.



Violin Memory (NYSE: VMEM) have been around for about 10 years. I’ve never had any real stick time with the kit, but I work in a small part of the world, so I know a few people who’ve been customers or who’ve worked for the company. There was a time when Violin Memory were the toast of the town. While the scuttlebutt in recent years had them tanking spectacularly, they’re still of the opinion that they’re very much in the game, and have spent the last 2 years on a significant overhaul of their core architecture and the way they go about getting things done in what is a pretty competitive flash storage market.


Violin Flash Fabric


James Bowen spent some time during the presentation taking us through some of the key design elements of the hardware platform and I thought they bear repeating here. One of the key components of the highly available system design is the “Violin Flash Fabric”, which has

  • Multiple paths between each Violin Intelligent Memory Module (VIMM) and vRAID Control Module (VCM); and
  • The VIMM Tree dynamically reconfigures to handle component failures and / or upgrades.

The Flash Fabric Architecture uses the following protection methods:

  • Multipath VIMM Fabric;
  • VCM Failure Protection; and
  • VIMM Failure protection.

What’s cool about this architecture is that the Fabric can handle the failure of up to 3 VCMs and 4 VIMMs, and with Violin’s vRAID in the mix it can tolerate up to 16 VIMM failures without data loss. In addition to that, Violin have really focussed on performance in the system and are claiming some pretty high numbers, some of which, admittedly, reside in the “4K Vanity Zone“.


Closing Thoughts and Further Reading

The full white paper on Flash Fabric Architecture is here. I urge you to read it, as I’ve done a bit of a ham-fisted job covering it in this post. It’s also worth checking out this page on the VIMM, which does a good job of explaining some of the benefits of that particular architecture. Also, check out Mark’s post on Violin here – it provides a nice, balanced view of things.

If you watch the presentation that Violin Memory gave at SFD8, the overwhelming theme was that they’ve got a fair bit of experience in flash architecture, they know how to get decent performance from their hardware, and they’ve learnt a few lessons along the way. In my opinion, Violin have taken a number of steps in recent times to set themselves on the path to success again, and I’m looking forward to seeing them continue on that path in the future.