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Editor:- November 17, 2010 - I spoke to Don Basile, CEO of Violin Memory, and Matt Barletta just prior to their launch of a new SSD solution (see news archive for details)

I said I wasn't so much interested in this new product announcement - to me it just looked like an incremental tool - which would make it easier to use their SSDs - I was more interested in getting a refresh on what the company was doing and how it viewed itself. Violin was a company which emerged from stealth mode in our publication in 2007 - and for a while captured a lot of interest - being ranked in the top 10 SSDs companies list (at that time) and also the most popular products.

They confirmed they felt very much like a new company - since they had an investment from Toshiba in April.

I asked them to clarify for our readers - how would they compare themselves to a company like NextIO?

They said they had never heard of NextIO - and when they looked at our SSD pages they didn't really think they had much in common with the other SSD companies listed here.

Instead they said they were going for global 5,000 companies which were using EMC / NetApp - particularly in Oracle apps. They said they had a good competitive IOPS offering compared to arrays of hard drives.

At this point I had to say that was successfully advertising million dollar terabyte SSD rackmounts from 2 vendors as long ago as February 2003 - when they first appeared - and INMO this demonstrated pretty well that our readers were exactly the kind of people they should be thinking more about.

They admitted they should be doing more to say what they are doing in the market to editors.

I asked them about how their business was doing - and in particular were they seeing any drop-off in RAM SSDs?

They said - on the contrary that their RAM based appliance business was growing - and overall their SSD business was growing faster than anything they had seen in previous companies. In the enterprise SSD acceleration market they said they thought the next few years would see a lot of winners. This is such a huge market that many vendors can grow without bumping into each other.

We got onto the subject of Oracle. Fast SSDs are a natural fit for Oracle databases. I said I thought that Violin's patented non blocking read after write flash architecture (which I wrote about a few years ago) could give them a competitive advantage - but they - the people at Violin would have to communicate better about their SSD controller technology.

They said it was interesting that so many people were reading about companies like SandForce - it was like in the old days when everyone wanted to know details about the latest Intel processors - even though most people would never get to design one into a motherboard.

I said - I thought it was because reading about new controller chips was the nearest thing that users could get to an SSD performance roadmap.

Back to Oracle - they asked what I thought about the fact that some analyst had named Violin as a possible acquisition target by Oracle? I had never seen that report (they sent me a copy after we spoke) but I had spoken to countless VCs and oems during the past 4 years about which SSDs would be good to invest in and which to buy. In my view the potential acquirers didn't know enough about the SSD market to ask the right questions. But I always point them to the newest version of my top 10 SSD list - because that has been the best predictor of future success.

On the legacy versus new dynasty question - Violin said they are definitely legacy.

I came away glad that we had taken the time to talk. Violin has got a better sense of its identity compared to when it entered the market. From my perspective they looked like a company which had almost gone back into stealth mode for a year or so and thereby lost their initial market impetus. They have an intrinsically impressive product which they should be shouting more about. It's up to them to do it. My impression is I don't think they know as much about the SSD market - as they really should - but they may not matter - because in a fast growing market - to use their words "there will be lots of winners."
"This is Violin's highest ranking in this list and an amazing come-back for a company which a few years ago had appeared to go back into stealth mode and virtually disappeared."
...Editor:- from the Q3 2011 edition of the Top SSD Companies.
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