Storage Startup Goes All Out With Solid State

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A startup is banking on enterprises’ growing need for high-performance storage — and it’s betting on flash-based, solid-state drive (SSD) technology to help it steal business away from the big players in the space.

Violin Memory announced its Violin 1010 appliance that uses Single-Level Cell (SLC) NAND flash modules integrated onto memory cards. Relying purely on SSD instead of traditional hard drives provides faster read and write performance at much lower power, according to the three-year-old vendor.

The company hopes to parlay the benefits of SSD into cold, hard cash, as enterprises search for faster storage processing systems at a cheaper price — since tech budgets are under greater scrutiny and data continues to grow astronomically.

The new market entrant also extends the list of storage players who see big dollar signs with SSD products. An IDC report released a year ago predicted SSDs were ready to hit the mainstream and that the technology’s performance and mobility-related requirements will push SSD revenues from $373 million in 2006 to $5.4 billion by 2011.

That’s one reason storage titan EMC (NYSE: EMC) pushed SSDs into its high-end Symmetrix DMX-4 storage systems in January, marking the technology’s initial foray into the enterprise business environment. Several competitors, such as IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA), quickly followed.

The SSD approach provides faster response time — as much as 10 times greater — than traditional hard disk drives when it comes to transaction processing and intensive applications such as Web applications and financial services trading systems.

But until this year, the cost was a bit prohibitive. High-end disk-based systems carry price tags in the neighborhood of $4 to $5 per gigabyte, while Violin said its SSD price is about $50 to $60 a gigabyte of data, said Brian Babineau, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.

Yet the prices are trending in SSD’s favor, as its price point is currently dropping by 50 percent annually.

Violin said its SSD price is about $50 to $60 per gigabyte of data, compared to competitive offerings that average $300 a gigabyte. A 2TB Violin system costs about $120,000.

“It’s a very reliable technology that provides better performance for cheaper costs,” said Morgan Littlewood, Violin’s vice president of marketing.

The Violin system also provides easy installation, according to industry experts.

“You just plug these modules in; it’s very simple. SSD is the biggest, most disruptive technology in the industry right now,” said Gene Ruth, an analyst with Burton Group.

The Violin 101 Flash Module, available in a 2U chassis, comes with 4TB of Flash storage capacity. It also can be configured to support up to 504 GB of DRAM — for enterprises in need of far faster speeds, at the cost of capacity. The appliance includes four 4Gbit/sec Fibre Channel connections and up to four 10Gbit/sec Ethernet ports.

“What this announcement does mean is that customers will have more choice when selecting high-performance storage solutions,” Babineau said. “The more competition, the better the price, which is needed in the SSD marketplace.”

Article courtesy of

Judy Mottl
Judy Mottl
Judy Mottl is an experienced technology journalist who has served as a senior editor, reporter, writer, and blogger for InformationWeek, Investors Business Daily, CNET, and Information Security Magazine, as well as other media outlets.

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