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Violin Memory

.... Violin Memory logo - click for more info

Violin Memory, founded in 2005, and headquartered in Santa Clara, California, has been pioneering the future of enterprise solid state systems, with rackmount flash memory arrays that deliver unprecedented sustainability and low spike-free latency for users seeking to accelerate business critical applications and to virtualize and optimize their IT infrastructure.

Specifically designed for extreme sustained performance with high reliability and serviceability, Violin's flash-based appliances scale to tens of terabytes of capacity, millions of IOPs per second, gigabytes per second of bandwidth at low latency.

see also:- Violin - mentions on and Violin's SSD blog

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after AFAs - what's the next box?

the elusive golden age of enterprise SSDs

enterprise flash array market - segmentation

controllernomics and risk reward with big memory "flash as RAM"

90% of enterprise SSD companies have no good reasons to survive
As we've noticed in the 11 year record of the Top SSD Companies - it's not just exclusively the anticipation of good news which attracts high reader research interest into following up SSD companies...

Violin entered the Top SSD Companies list in Q3 2007.

Its highest rank was #2 in Q1 2016.

Recently in Q4 2017 - Violin was #6.
Are we there yet?
After more than 20 years of writing guides to the SSD and memory systems market and helping to promote much change and disruption the editor of asks - Are we there yet?
There's a language and characterization problem for the storage class memory industry.
is it realistic to talk about memory IOPS?
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Editor:- September 30, 2015 - Violin Memory was ranked #9 in the Q2 2015 edition of the Top SSD Companies List which is researched and published by (Same as before.)

Given that Violin's sales were nothing to write home about (Violin reported that revenue for the quarter ended April 30, 2015 had declined 33% year on year to $12 million and was 41% less sequentially compared to the previous quarter) Violin's strong showing in the list deserves some attention and comment. I think there were 3 main reasons Violin was able to to maintain its interest in the SSD reader base.
  • Violin still has a strong brand - due to its prominence in the early phases of the enterprise flash array market
  • Violin was one of the pioneers in big controller SSD architecture. And as that kind of approach has been adopted successfully by more and more leading vendors - there's still a kind of expectancy that this gives vendors some kind of competitive edge. (Which - generally - it can do with the right investment of technical effort and marketing.)
  • But I also think that Violin now holds the same kind of gruesome but hopeful fascination for investors which used to prop up STEC in this Top SSD Companies series during the fading years of its business prior to acquisition.

resurgence of interest in Violin - is that good news?

Editor:- July 20, 2015 - Violin was ranked #9 in the Q1 2015 edition of the Top SSD Companies List which is researched and published by

But - as reported last week in SSD news - comparative interest in Violin spiked in the first half of July - placing the company in the top 4 SSD companies researched by readers.

Over and above the general competitive pressures in the rackmount SSD market (such as being known to users for the right reasons within a growing and ill defined segmentation matrix while also figuring out how to manage a future market in which there will be less competing suppliers) Violin faces specific pressures of change which will effect it more than most others in its strongest base - the market for fast rackmount SSDs.

This new competitive threat will come from a new class of fast rackmount SSDs which will be emerging in the next year - based on arrays of 2.5" NVMe SSDs - which will have the same impact on the fate of this segment of the market (IBM FlashSystems, EMC XtremIO, SanDisk ION Accelerator) as flash did on RAM SSDs. It will implode the cost expectations and explode the scalability and market roadmaps.

re Violin - from the Top SSD Companies in Q4 2014

If you strip away the software which does so little to differentiate Violin from countless other flash array companies - you'd still be left with a proven, proprietary, big SSD controller architecture based, fast rackmount SSD - which (while being somewhat more expensive to build than others which use standard COTS SSDs and different flash) still has a role to play in some types of high performance, low latency, shared storage applications.

The problem - is that the implementation is more capable and more expensive than needed in most applications in the market today. And you can't slow it down to make it cheaper.

I began wondering last December - if the often commented on segmentation based, and marketing miss-positioning problems affecting the company - were to raise questions about its viability operating as an independent entity - who would still want to buy Violin? (the company) and why.

The crazy answer I came to (based on extreme boundary analysis) is that it may still have value as a reference architecture for a memory supplier (who doesn't yet own a rackmount SSD business) for redeployment as a white box, simple high speed, high availability, platform.

Which is more than you can say about most of the companies Violin competes with.

So there is enough value there - given another rethink in marketing. (Or - as I've been saying for years - maybe with more focused thinking.)

I'll be returning to the question of what happens if you imagine enterprise SSD box vendors stripped away from their software in a later blog. the Top SSD Companies in Q4 2014

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Violin - milestones from SSD market history

In August 2007 - Violin Memory launched the world's fastest 2U SSD - the Violin 1010.

In August 2008 - Violin Memory said it had delivered 1 million IOPS on a single interface port (a world record) using the latest version of its RAM based Violin 1010 memory appliance.

In November 2008 - Violin Memory announced availability of a new model - a fast 4TB SLC flash SSD in a 2U rackmount. Its patent pending non blocking architecture delivers the best ratio of flash R/W IOPS in the industry - over 200K random Read IOPS and 100K random Write IOPS (4K block). Interface options include:- PCIe, Fibre Channel and Ethernet.

In September 2009 - Violin Memory announced that Donald Basile has been named CEO. Dr. Basile (with over 20 years of leadership experience) had recently served as the CEO of Fusion-io.

In March 2010 - FalconStor announced technical and VAR channel support for Violin Memory's 2U rackmount FC flash SSD - the Violin 1010 . Although the headline specs of this very fast flash SSD are substantially the same as when it was launched in November 2008 the 2 important things which have changed are:-
  • the availability of SSD ASAP-like features implemented by FalconStor's SafeCache and HotZone software.
In April 2010 - Violin Memory announced it had received a significant investment from Toshiba.

In May 2010 - Violin Memory announced a strategic partnership with Landmark Ventures a technology-focused strategic advisory and investment-banking firm. No details were given but there have been several signs in the past year that Violin is restructuring itself to better cope with the competitive and growth demands of the rackmount SSD market. For example - earlier in this month Violin announced the appointment of former Cisco VP Larry Lang to its board.

In June 2010 - Violin Memory announced it has acquired the technology assets of of Gear6.

In September 2010 - Violin Memory announced availability of the Violin 3140 - a 3U MLC SSD with 40TB capacity priced at under $16 per GB and $3 per IOPS.

In November 2010 - Violin Memory (which makes rackmount SSDs) unveiled a multi-terabyte SSD cache solution for NAS systems which use NFS. Violin says its vCACHE expands to 15TB of useable cache and delivers over 300,000 NFS operations per second over 8x 10GbE ports.

Editor's comments:- I spoke to Don Basile, CEO of Violin Memory, and Matt Barletta a few days ago to get a current view of how the company sees itself, competitors and the SSD market. here to read the interview

In January 2011 - Violin Memory re-entered the top 10 in the 15th quarterly edition of the Top SSD companies.

In February 2011 - Violin Memory announced a $35 Million Series B funding round which includes Toshiba - a strategic investor since April 2010.

In June 2011 - Violin Memory announced a $40 Million Series C funding round and said it expects to do $100 million enterprise SSD revenue.

In July 2011 - Violin Memory anoounced it had been named "company of the year" by AlwaysOn.

In September 2011 - Violin Memory announced new models and options in its range of fast iSCSI / FC SAN rackmount SSDs. The new 6000 series - designed for high availability applications with no single point of failure and hot swappable "everything" - provides 12TB SLC, or 22TB MLC usable capacity with 200/600 microseconds mixed latency, 1 million / 500K sustained RAIDed spike free write IOPS, in 3U rackspace at a list price around $37K / $20K per terabyte.

In October 2011 - Violin Memory achieved its highest ever ranking in's 18th quarterly list of the Top SSD Companies. Violin was #2 - based on search volume which tracked over 350,000 online SSD readers in the 3rd quarter of 2011.

In January 2013 - Violin acquired GridIron Systems.

In January 2013 - Violin also entered the PCIe SSD card market. Its full height Velocity cards have upto 11TB raw (8TB usable) capacity and deliver upto 500K IOPS.

In August 2013 - Violin Memory announced it has filed a registration statement form S-1 with the SEC relating to the proposed IPO of its common stock.

In December 2013 - Violin Memory terminated the employment of its CEO Don Basile - who had been CEO of the company for the previous 4-5 years.

In April 2014 - Violin Memory re-entered the server based SSD acceleration market with the general availability of its Windows Flash Array (WFA) - a 3U fast 10GbE high availability SSD accelerated apps server with integrated servers and a shared 64TB raw flash SSD array.

In May 2014 - Hynix acquired Violin Memory's line of PCIe SSDs - for $23 million.

In April 2017 - Violin Memory - which had gone into Chaper 11 in December 2016 - was acquired by Quantum Partners LP ("Soros"), a private investment fund managed by Soros Fund Management LLC ("SFM").

Who's who in SSD? - by Zsolt Kerekes - editor - January 2014

Violin Memory remains 1 of the top 3 best known and most researched makers of fast rackmount SSDs for the enterprise.

Violin was ranked #3 in the the Q4 2013 edition of the Top SSD Companies List which is researched and published by

Technically - Violin has been most associated with being a performance leader in the fast high availability FC SAN rackmount SSD market.

Its strongest competitors (in performance terms) are:- Both these competitors have published benchmarks which claim to beat systems from Violin.

For a new assessment (January 2014) of IBM's rackmount SSD business see the article - It's IBM SSD Jim - but not as we know it.

Who's who in SSD? - by Zsolt Kerekes - January 21, 2013

Violin Memory - which launched its first SSD systems in August 2007 - has been the subject of many SSD acquisition and IPO stories in the past 18 months. The company is a leader in these segments in the enterprise SSD market. Violin's recent acquisition of GridIron Systems (a high caliber SSD ASAP software IP company) will enable Violin to strengthen its already established authority in the enterprise market.

earlier comments:- September 2012

One way to look at Violin is as the large SSD controller architecture fast enterprise rackmount SSD company which has long wanted to be acquired - but which got passed over when IBM decided to acquire Texas Memory Systems.

Maybe Violin would have been more in the runnning for this SSD beauty pageant if they had already had a market proven PCIe SSD family too. Because, with TMS, IBM scored leadership in 2 enterprise SSD silos in one hit. Acquiring Violin plus a PCIe SSD maker would have doubled the cost and led to inefficiencies in architecte and SSD software.

(This was written long before Violin launched its own late to market PCIe SSD product line.)

Here below are some earlier comments - April 2, 2012

Violin Memory is listed in various of my enterprise SSD directories including:- the top 20 SSD companies, the fastest SSDs, FC SAN SSDs and iSCSI SSDs.

Violin is an important enterprise SSD company - having been at the #2 slot in's quarterly top SSD companies list for the past 3 quarters.

Here's how the company fits in with my various SSD classifications
  • SSD market silos:- Violin is mainly engaged in the "fast rackmount SSD" and "high availability SSDs" segments.
Violin has been telling journalists and analysts that it would like to be acquired or that it might do an IPO since 2010. And continuing that spin - as part of a recent $50 million Series D funding announcement - Violin recently suggested that it might be worth more than $800 million.

Nobody can be certain what any SSD company is really worth - because it depends on the market context - and Violin is still privately owned. But it can be interesting to make comparisons with what we know about other SSD companies.

Take SSD controllers for example. Violin has its own SSD controller technology. In 2011 a bunch of SSD controller companies (SandForce, Pliant and Anobit) got acquired - for amounts ranging from $300 - $500 million.

That doesn't tell you what someone might pay for Violin - because the products, business models and market segments are significantly different. But it gives you a starting point.

Here's a what-if? scenario to ponder on.

If Violin were to use its controller technology to design and market PCIe SSD cards - instead of rackmount SSDs that would give it access to bigger markets. But it doesn't and whether that's a lost opportunity - or the best business decision that Violin's management ever made remains to be seen.

The SSD market segments which Violin does already operate in could grow to be big enough to accomodate several muli-billion dollar companies - without venturing into risky PCIe SSD card / component terrirtory.

And in this context you may be interested in an earlier article - ... if Fusion-io sells more... does that mean Violin will sell less?

For more info about Violin Memory take a look at the links above and Violin - editor mentions on

  • editor's earlier comments:- November 2011

    In the highly competitive market of enterprise SSDs Violin is unusual in being a company which - having launched its first product (in August 2007) - realized it had got things slightly wrong, then went back into stealth mode, restructured its product, changed its management team and financing and then re-emerged a few years later with a better sense of where it was going - and has since lived to tell the tale. It's #2 in the top SSD companies list (Q3 2011).

    I wouldn't recommend other companies to try this disjointed route to market - but sometimes that's just the way it happens. And it shows that if your core technology is advanced enough - you may have enough time to to learn from customers what you need to do to re-package the tech in a way that's more relevant to their needs - before anyone else can get ahead of you and steal the market away.

    Violin's first systems (in 2007) were enterprise grade PCIe connected solid state memory accelerators. As we know from what happened afterwards - enterprise users are comfortable with the idea of PCIe SSDs so long as they are cards - but when it comes to rackmount SSDs they prefer to stick with traditional network storage connectivity - rather than introduce a new type of storage box.

    The core of Violin's technology is a big architecture memory array which enables non blocking reads after flash writes, has full duty cycle garbage collection and delivers "spike-free" sustainable performance.

    When I spoke to Violin's CEO - Don Basile recently about this he said that inside their protection array they're actually doing 5x more IOPS than the customer is seeing outside the box and on the datasheet.

    Speed is a core dimension of what Violin's 6000 series rackmount SSDs offer. Another is reliability (no single point of failure). But the company's positioning is that it offers very high density, high performance tier 1 storage at a competitive price per terabyte that connects to legacy SANs. If you like what fast SAN SSDs can do for your apps - then this one of the companies which has to be on your shortlist.

  • editor's earlier comments:- October 2011

    Violin Memory - was #2 in the top 20 SSD companies list in Q3 2011 (published by in October 7, 2011) - the company's highest position since these quarterly search based rankings began - and up 2 positions since the preceding quarter.

    This ranking improvement was already in place - before the company announced details of its new tier 1 SSD storage in September - and affirms my view that when enterprise SSD readers see a product or company they like the sound of they want to learn more.

    When I spoke to Violin's CEO a few weeks ago - the question of the top SSD companies list did arise (as it often does when I talk to SSD companies). At the time I muttered something - like I think you're still doing OK - whereas in fact I had been seeing searches about the company and its products at the top end of my analytics screens for a few months - as well as getting frequent questions about them from VCs and investors.

    Congratulations to Violin on making such a successful come back. (Although there's still a steep hill to climb to the #1 slot - which got 84% more searches than Violin. Violin itself got 9% more than the #3 ranked SSD company.)

    Violin Memory was the 1st company to focus on the very high performance PCIe connected SSD market (in 2007) and has appeared from time to time in the fastest SSDs lists.

    For a few years (2009 and 2010) the company appeared to lose momentum and focus. When I spoke to Violin's CEO Don Basile in November 2010 - I said they looked like a company which had gone back into stealth mode. They are in effect a new company with new funding ($75 million in the 1st half of 2011) but still marketing the same technology base products - which due to their holistic design have very high capacity and performance for their package footprint. Violin says it's on course to reach $100 million revenue this year.

    Where does Violin stand relative to my SSD architecture models?

    They are legacy (rather than new dynasty and big (rather than small) SSD architecture.

    Alternatives to Violin Memory?

    For competing products in this category see the fastest SSDs and rackmount SSD directories.

    Other makers of tier 1 FC SAN SSD storage (with hot replaceable modules) include:- Kaminario - whose product line includes MLC and RAM SSD options - and Huawei Symantec - whose SLC only product line has lower performance but also lower cost.

    Other makers of FC SAN SSDs which, however, require application dependent configuration to support failover configurations include:- Texas Memory Systems and Solid Access Technologies.

    Many other FC SAN SSD systems appear to overlap with Violin's product range - but don't in reality compete for the same application slots. These include auto-tiering SSDs / ASAPs from Dataram and GridIron Systems.

    And yet another category of similar sounding - but functionally different - network SSDs is a class of bulk storage SSDs (with internal compression and dedupe) from companies like Nimble Storage and WhipTail Technologies.
HP accounted for 65% of Violin's revenue in FY 2012
Editor:- September 16, 2013 - Here are some interesting pieces of information about Violin which have come to light as a result of its recent IPO related S1 filing documents.
  • Violin's revenue was approx $51 million for the 6 months ended July 31, 2013.

    2 years earlier - in June 2011 - following an earlier funding round the company's CEO had said he hoped "to surpass $100 million in revenue this year (2011) the first step in building a billion dollar company."

    The S1 filing indicates that actually Violin achieved revenue of about $53 million for the year ending January 31, 2012.
  • In FY 2012 HP accounted for 65% of Violin's revenue - but HP was no longer the biggest customer in the 2 most recent quarters and apparently HP has not (yet) sought to qualify Violin's flagship product - the 6000 Series.
  • Violin has incurred a net loss in each quarter since its inception.
  • Violin is hoping to raise $146 million (approx) from its IPO
  • a big chunk of Violin's past "advertising" spend seems to have been weighted towards the restricted reach of expensive physical advertising space - with a seemingly anorexic approach to web ads. Could that be why Violin hasn't got more customers?
Violin acquires GridIron
Editor:- January 21, 2013 - Violin today announced it has acquired GridIron Systems.

Editor's comments:- in October 2012 I listed GridIron as 1 of the 3 main contenders to Fusion-io in the enterprise SSD software stakes -with the qualifying comment...

"GridIron - probably has the most sophisticated SSD ASAP software in the industry. But it's a shame it has been tied (until recently) to their hardware - an SSD HDD hybrid box."

Today's announcement - which adds to the growing list of notable SSD acquisitions in the modern era of the SSD market - will enable Violin to strengthen its already established authority in the enterprise SSD rack market.
"... if Fusion-io sells more...
does that mean Violin will sell less?" to read this classic article (Nov 2011)
Violin video re advantages of home grown controllers
Editor:- January 23, 2012 - I commented recently that the top 10 SSD companies in Q4 2011 all had one thing in common (apart from the fact they make SSDs) - they all had their own proprietary SSD controller architecture which they could use to optimize products for some application markets (even if some of them also used other controllers too).

In a recent video - Violin's, CTO Software Jonathan Goldick talks about the benefits they get from having their own controller.

click to  see the SSD video I like it because it also echoes themes I discussed last year in my big versus small SSD architecture article - and also because it's short - less than 250 seconds. Violin's SSD video
Violin unveils naked cost advantages in reliable SSD arrays
Editor:- September 27, 2011 - Violin Memory today announced new models and options in its range of fast iSCSI / FC SAN rackmount SSDs.

The new 6000 series - designed for high availability applications with no single point of failure and hot swappable "everything" - provides 12TB SLC, or 22TB MLC usable capacity with 200/600 microseconds mixed latency, 1 million / 500K sustained RAIDed spike free write IOPS, in 3U rackspace at a list price around $37K / $20K per terabyte.

For less demanding applications (but still featuring hot swap memory modules) the company has also extended its lower priced 3000 series to 16TB SLC usable capacity.

Editor's comments:- when I spoke to Violin's CEO - Don Basile about the new 6000 series he was curious about how I would tell you what's unique about this product and signal whether it's relevant to you or not.

I said - when it comes to reliability - you've either got it - or you haven't - and there aren't too many enterprise SSD systems which have hot-swap everything. That's one of the reasons the latency looks slow - compared to many other fast SSDs - because the figures quoted here include the latency of the internal factory built protection schemes.

Another angle - I said is your product is an example of "big SSD architecture". When I explained what I meant - Don agreed and said what it means for the customer is lower price. Because when you look at the raw capacity that's lost to over-provisioning and RAID like protection and get down to the usable capacity that the customer sees in an MLC rack - say - then Violin's 6000 delivers about 70% of the raw capacity - versus nearer to 30% in an array of 2.5" SSDs for example. That confers a 2 to 1 native cost and density (SSD TB/U) advantage.

I said Violin's density looks good too - compared say to Kaminario's K2.

I also said - that our SSD readers would recognize what was meant by "spike-free" IOPS - because of various past articles about this - and because another enterprise flash vendor - Virident Systems - had made that one of the differences they talk about compared to some other flash PCIe SSD companies. I knew that in Violin's case that was due to their patented non-blocking write architecture - which was explained to me when their first flash products came to market in 2008.

Don said - that inside their protection array they're actually doing 5x more IOPS than the customer is seeing outside the box and on the datasheet - and that helps too.

I also asked about price - and where they were relative to $30K / TB - which is the ballpark for this type of product - and you can see where Violin are above. That's a competitive figure for a no SPOF SSD.

I said that for people who are serious about enterprise SSDs it's relatively easy to decide what products you may want to focus in on after just seeing a couple of simple metrics.

Don did also mention a comparative write up - about their SSD versus another so called "tier 1" storage solution - from EMC. Violin think it makes them look pretty good - but I can't understand why anyone cares how they stack up to EMC - who never understood the SSD plot - which is why their (at one time) prime SSD supplier STEC has had a bumpy revenue stream in recent years.

I had one final question for Don - which wasn't about Violin's new SSD - but about something which had come to my attention while I was googling the company just before our conversation.
click to see the collection of  SSD reliability articles here on When can we expect to see a picture of a naked man featured on a Vmem poster ad? - I asked.

He laughed and indicated it wouldn't be anytime soon.
World's 1st PCIe rackmount SSD
In August 2007 - Violin launched the world's fastest 2U SSD.

This was the 1st time that a PCIe connected rackmount SSD had been featured on

Earlier SSDs with a claim to ultra speed fame had included FC, SAS or InfiniBand interfaces.

There were 2 things which stood out when this product was launched.

1 - the high density (compared to other RAM SSD products), and

2 - Violin's promise to follow up with a later flash SSD model with the same interface and form factor. That promise was made good in November 2008 - when the company announced a 4TB SLC flash 2U model with over 200K random Read IOPS and 100K random Write IOPS (4K blocks).
Editor's notes from SSD market history.

The product shown below - from Violin Memory - was
the most popular SSD product featured here on in the 4th quarter of 2008.
Violin 1010 - world's densest  DRAM  array -  for  HPC and data center server acceleration
world's fastest 2U flash / RAM SSD
from Violin Memory

storage search banner

news comment
Violin launches new sales model
Editor:- January 16, 2018 - Following its bankruptcy in December 2016 and re-energizing under new ownership Violin Systems today signalled a new way it wants to do business with the announcement of various utility based purchase and leasing options for rackmount SSDs.

The company says - "Standard buying options include both outright purchase and pay-as-you-grow offerings with smaller upfront fee and additional capacity invoiced over time. Lease options are available after qualification from Violin's preferred financial partners. Violin's subscription model allows organizations to pay on a monthly basis for storage used. All options include support, installation and optimization as part of the purchase price."

Editor's comments:- With today's announcement Violin has joined mainstrean pricing models which were innovated by various AFA and hybrid appliance vendors in 2014 - for reasons analyzed in my article at that time - Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing.

The timing of this new pricing approach from Violin may signal a judgement that the upward movement of memory prices makes it a good time for the company to re-engage proactively with the competitive AFA market.

The industry has been through a difficult year of "upwards" movements in raw memory pricing. And one of the consequences of the memory shortages was that utility led pricing models and leasing projections for flash based enterprise storage - which had been set during the downward curve decade - led to problems with companies whose businesses and brading propositions had been so closely tied to them. That is what - I believe led to the necessity of Tegile's acquisition / rescue last summer.
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Soros acquires Violin
Editor:- April 24, 2017 - Violin Memory - which had gone into Chaper 11 in December 2016 - today announced it has been acquired by Quantum Partners LP (Soros), a private investment fund managed by Soros Fund Management LLC (SFM).

One of Violin's customers was quoted as saying "Throughout the reorganization process, Violin continued its enterprise-level customer support..."
Violin chapter 11
Editor:- December 14, 2016 - Violin Memory today announced it has filed a voluntary petition for reorganization under chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, and is seeking to hold an auction in early January for the business.

Kevin A. DeNuccio, Violin Memory's President and CEO said - "...Violin intends to continue to sell solutions to customers and prospects as well as service and support customers during this restructuring."
Violin discloses plan to retain CFO until end of January
Editor:- November 25, 2016 - An SEC Form 8-K filing by

Violin Memory

discloses that on November 19, 2016, the Board of Directors of Violin Memory, Inc. approved the award of a bonus payment of $150,000.00 to Cory J. Sindelar, Violins CFO.

In consideration for the Bonus, Mr. Sindelar agreed to remain employed by Violin and to continue to perform services for and provide good faith assistance to Violin in connection with ongoing matters through an earned date which will be no later than January 31, 2017.

Editor's comments:- due no doubt to rubbernecking Violin moved up one position to#3 in the Q3 2016 edition of the Top SSD Companies.
Violin issues going concern warning
Editor:- September 14, 2016 - Violin Memory today filed a FORM 10-Q (pdf) with the SEC which provides a snapshot of the company's poistion for the quarter ended July 31, 2016. Among other things:-
  • Violin's revenue had fallen by 72% compared to the year ago. Product revenue was $2 million and services revenue was $5.4 million (unaudited).
  • Violin has issued a going concern warning which concludes - "Failure to generate sufficient revenue, increase gross margins, control or reduce operating costs and to raise sufficient funds may result in an inability of the Company to continue as a going concern."
We're now nearing a pivotal point in the enterprise SSD market where the long held assumptions I helped to encourage (especially how many leading systems vendors there will be in the market at the same time) are about to change dramatically.
90% of the enterprise SSD companies which you know have no good reasons to survive
Violin's revenue declined 18% compared to year ago
Editor:- August 27, 2015 - Violin Memory today reported that revenue for the quarter ended July 31, 2015 was $15.3 million - which was 18% lower than the same period a year earlier.

Editor's comments:- Violin's revenue in calendar year 2014 was about half that of Pure Storage. Which does make you wonder where Pure's revenue will be 2 years after its own IPO.
Violin's revenue continues to slide
Editor:- June 2, 2015 - Violin Memory today reported that revenue for the recent quarter ended April 30, 2015 had declined 33% yoy to $12 million and was 41% less sequentially compared to the previous quarter.

Editor's comments:- part of the tragedy of the Violin story is that so many great things were once expected of it - as you can see by this news coverage - 4 years ago - about a $40 million funding round and aspirations to become the "the fastest growing storage company in the decade".

Violin's illusory expectations owed much to its emergence in the market in 2007 when the rackmount SSD market was at the tail end of the RAM SSD dominant era and about to make the fateful transition to the dominance of flash.

When Violin did launch its first flash array in 2008 it was a year behind the rackmount flash SSD market leader in shipments - but that didn't appear to matter so much in a market where there were so few competing suppliers. At that time Violin was one of just two leading well recognized flash array suppliers in the early fast rackmount flash SSD accelerator market.

But the market didn't remain simple.

It grew through 2009 (year of SSD market confusion), evolved into 2010 (year of the enterprise flash bubble) and then swiftly therafter in many stages became really complicated.

As all that was happening - Violin's inability to redeploy its controller technology to lower performance applications and its unwillingness to focus on a smaller number of winnable segments - led the company in later years to dissipate its marketing resources in many unproductive directions - precisely when - due to the growing number of hundreds of viable competitors - a more focused strategy might have been better.
Violin warns users about "effective" capacity
Editor:- April 22, 2015 - Violin Memory says that "effective storage capacity is a terrible measurement on which to make any firm plans (for buying flash storage arrays)" in a new blog - Where's My Capacity? Effective, Usable and Raw Explained.

Why's it terrible?

Because Violin goes on to say - "You simply cannot know what the effective capacity of a storage system is until you put your data on it. And you cannot guarantee that it will remain that way if your data is going to change."

atrological pricing
new age enterprise
flash pricing
So Violin advises - "Never, ever buy a storage system based purely on the effective capacity offered by the vendor and always consider whether the assumed data reduction ratio is relevant to you. (Also, be very careful to read the small print when a vendor offers a guarantee regarding data reduction ratios.)"

Editor's comments:- This is a direct retaliation aimed at competing vendors - who using unfair tactics - such as the crowd sourced intelligence which enables them to have a pretty darn good guess how "effective" will translate for you (based on similar customers) are willing to take bets on Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing.

It's the kind of bet which is easier to finance when you've already proved it works and when you're picky about which customers you offer it to. Which you can only do with focused and segmented marketing analysis. Effective capacity promises are safer with effective marketing.
VIMMs, controllers and firmware's place in the box
Editor:- October 27, 2014 - As Violin's flash SSD controllers - VIMMs - are such an important part of their system offerings - and as they have established themselves as a de-facto proprietary standard in the enterprise (in the same way that if you ship enough quantities of anything over several memory product generations and over 6 years expanse of time it is an industry standard - despite having no ORG as custodian of the sacred pdfs)...

That was my pretext (6 months ago) for suggesting to Eric Herzog, Violin's CMO - that readers like you - might be interested to know how many VIMMs the company has shipped.

I said this would enable analysts and prospective customers to compare the installed weight of this controller architecture to other things which they can get numbers for - such as units of SAS SSDs, PCIe SSDs etc.

I don't have those VIMM shipment numbers - but I found it refreshing to see a recent blog from Violin which talks again about the hardware inside its arrays - coming as it does after a stream of announcements from Violin which have focused mostly on software compatibilities - in which almost the exact same words could have been said of other competing rackmount SSD despite them having completely different innards.

Where does firmware come from? - by Erik Ottem, Director of Product Marketing - Violin - answers this question more from a business perspective than a technical software writing angle.

Erik's point is that Violin's biggest systems competitors have made up their deficits in raw flash array architecture by buying companies or licensing 3rd party software - whereas Violin controls everything about the way that the thousands of flash memory chips in each big SSD architecture system are connected and managed. the article

Editor's comments:- While nothing in Erik's blog is really new - for anyone who has known the company for a long time - I think it's a healthy restatement of what makes this company different from most of its competitors.

Having said that - owning your own controller architecture - also carries its own consequences in terms of the cost of the raw memory you have to buy too.
Currently there is no type of mainstream flash which isn't being used in some type of enterprise SSD systems.

And if you hear vendors say - that their array is better because it uses so called enterprise MLC (eMLC) it simply means that they don't know how to manage the flash with their own IP and have passed the buck to their memory suppliers and to their customers (who have to pay more).

In some high end enterprise market applications - however - there are valid reasons you might choose to pay more...
12 key SSD ideas which changed in 2014
2014 will be seen as having been the start of a new phase of creativity in the enterprise SSD market on the subject of pricing and affordability. And Violin is 1 of 3 companies leading this trend.
Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing
The segment multiplication factors of RAS, software, design stability etc...
Decloaking hidden segments in the enterprise for rackmount SSDs
VCs and SSDs
rackmount SSDs
the Top SSD companies
high availability enterprise SSDs
how fast can your SSD run backwards?
efficiency - making the same SSD - with less flash
how will Memory Channel SSDs impact PCIe SSDs?
new SSD racks announced (and unannounced) by Violin
Editor:- June 24, 2014 - Violin Memory today launched a new rackmount SSD - Concerto 7000 - which can provide upto 280TB of raw fast high availability enterprise flash (using Violin's standard VIMM modules) in 18U.

The key thing about the 7000 is that it's a software services rich storage box -which enables many types of replication functions to be easily scheduled and run concurrently (if so desired) between various 7000 nodes in dispersed geographic locations to ensure data survivability.

Violin also offers an upgrade kit which enables existing users of its legacy 6000 storage arrays to interoperate with these services.

Editor's comments:- June 25, 2014 - yesterday in this space I promised I would give you a bigger story about Violin.

I said - it wouldn't be about this new product - the Concerto 7000 - which I regard as an incremental and predictable gap filler - but instead about an interview I conducted with the company last week driven by the need to understand their business strategy better and to assess how they aimed to fix this paradox...

Each time Violin (or any enterprise SSD vendor) adds new market optimized software and features into a new product line - it makes the new product more attractive to some users - but much less competitive for most users.

Reconciling that marketing paradox with Violin's aspiration to significantly grow revenue led me to pose some very direct and detailed segmentation questions to the company. And I got some very interesting answers.

here it is

In early to mid June more than the usual number of investors had been asking me questions about Violin which I mostly answered by referring them to scattered fragments of content which talked about their themes - on the pages of

With another quarterly update of the Top SSD Companies coming soon - I was already thinking it might be a good idea to freshen my profile page for Violin - when I got contacted by a cheerleader from the company asking if I wanted to talk again to Eric Herzog who was planning another round of editor / analyst briefings about a new software related product announcement (see above).

I said - "thanks I'll be happy to talk (again) to Eric. But my main interest is not Violin's new software (I talk to over 100 pure play enterprise software companies). However - if Eric is happy to divide his time between talking about the new product launch and my random questions about Violin (prompted by many hours of discussions with readers about Violin in recent days) then let's make a date."

And that's how this meeting got set up.

As things turned out - we used nearly all the allocated time talking about my segmentation issues - and with less than 3 minutes remaining at the end of that I said to Eric - I get the idea (about the software in the Concerto 7000). I'll read up about it.

BTW - I didn't send Eric any advance notice of my detailed questions.

That's partly because I prefer thinking on the spot and we've spoken about enterprise SSD segmentation before so I know he thinks fast.

I thought it might be a nice break for him to get away from the standard presentation treadmill.

To be honest I wasn't really sure how much of our conversation I would eventually be able to write about either - because I was touching on some serious business issues.

And what's good for me to know - when I'm talking in my self appointed pastoral role as the virtual best friend of every SSD company - isn't the same as what's good for the world at large to know - especially competitors.

Anyway - the people I talk to regularly know that although I'm a bit strange (who else would be crazy enough to spend so much time thinking about this market) I can be relied on to keep their secrets.

On my part I was hoping to get clarification on 2 issues.
  • Business limiting factors in the server based SSD acceleration market.

    As Violin had made it clear it wasn't go to play in the PCIe SSD market - and the company's VIMMs don't suit a memory channel SSD form factor either- the company's only publicly known stakeout in this market is the recently launched WFA.

    While that's an interesting experiment - which will appeal to some kinds of users who like Windows and who like the idea of having a single source integrated SSD enhanced apps server - and while it gives Violin a definitely different personality to other vendors competing in this space - I could see 2 problems which would limit the scale of this business.

    1 - the fact that Violin provides the servers.

    Most big users will prefer to standardize on servers from their preferred server suppliers.

    2 - the market limiting effect of the Windows SQL environment.

    Because there are other OS's and other apps.
  • Business limiting factors in the SSD storage array market.

    In particular I was wondering how Violin was going to deal with customers of the type who liked its earlier array products - specifically because they didn't come with a lot of software strings attached.

    My concern was - that that Violin's new product roadmap looked like it was going down the road of increasing product specialization and increasing the software bundle.

    Now despite what some naive market reports about the SSD array market may tell you - more functionality equates to a worse matching product for those customers who prefer to use a different preferred set of software.

    Because for customers in that group - who don't want it - all it does by being in the bundle is slow things down, add to their costs and support and integration headaches.
So I opened my conversation with Eric by saying I had been speaking to a lot of people about his company recently and one of the main things I wanted to talk about was what Violin was going to do about the apparent segmentation problem - which is - the more you specialize a product for one group of customers - the less attractive you make it for everyone else.

Because I couldn't see the solution to this question coming from a continuing sequence of product variations like the last 2 products.

And to make sure we were on the same page I said - the outward sign of real marketing strength - is being able to say with confidence which segments you definitely want to walk away from.

He said straight away - we already did that when we sold the PCIe SSD business.

Which showed we were on the same wavelength.

So I quickly gave Eric a summary of the concerns which I have already outlined to you above. And this is a summary of what he said.

On the server side - he said he has seen those exact same issues.

He named some customers (which I won't divulge here) who liked the look of the WFA and went as far as evaluating it. And when they did that they liked the performance they got.

(He reminded me BTW that the initial published performance numbers for the WFA came from Microsoft - and not from Violin.)

But sometimes he conceded - that Windows is just a small part of a customer's OS mix. If they're a big organization it's too cumbersome to start supporting additional types of systems components in their infrastructure.

And - on the SSD storage array side - he readily agreed with my point that there are many customers who prefer using their own software which they already have - rather than introducing a new bundle of software like that in the 7000. (And he went on to give me a lot of examples of such use cases which Violin has seen in its customer base.)

By then he'd already told me about how Violin was already satisfying those needs with an unannounced new product.

Eric said - I am not going to walk away from that kind of business or those kinds of customers.

In a way - when Eric first told me the details - I was surprised. But I wasn't shocked.

Because I had been thinking that the solution might lie in the direction of a stripped down - no frills - software light SSD array.

But I had anticipated that might be a future product.

Like a Strad 2000...

Can I talk about this? - I asked.

Yes - but don't name the customers or the other details about the software environments we talked about - said Eric.

So this is where I can reveal the details of Violin's new product - which satisfies many of the problems I mentioned above - which arise from having too much specialist software in an SSD array.

It's the 6000 series.

Although - not exactly.

Eric said - we can keep the 6000 competitive and up to date - because most of the modules (power supplies, fans, memory) are interchangeable with the 7000.

In a way the solution is obvious. But in another way it's not.

I said to Eric - the usual thing in this industry is that when a company brings out a new product which looks a bit like the product they had before - but which does more - then everyone assumes that the old product is obsolete.

He agreed.

So maybe there's a case to made for relaunching the 6000.

The reviewers - who simply look at the bullet points and count how many different software features it's got - will hate it.

But the customers - who just want a fast reliable and predictable SSD box - and who don't want to be told what software they have to run with it - will be delighted.

BTW - I deliberately didn't ask Eric to break out numbers for WFA sales.

And I won't try to estimate them by comparing them with similar things to guess a size of market.

I said to Eric in this conversation - you don't need analysts or market reports to tell you if the WFA experiment is working. You're going to know that soon enough from your sales people.

So if it's still in the product line next year - that will be a clue to us all.

See also:- playing the enterprise SSD box riddle game, Decloaking hidden segments in the enterprise for rackmount SSDs, What makes this enterprise SSD different?
Hynix buys Violin's PCIe SSD product line
Editor:- May 29, 2014 - Today in line with previous guidance signals - Violin Memory (which in January 2013 had been observed to tentatively dip its toes as a late entrant into the raging torrents of the PCIe SSD market - but which had not been regarded by me as very likely to survive a rigorous swim) announced that it has sold its PCIe SSD product line to Hynix which paid $23 million in cash and assumed certain liabilities totaling $0.5 million.
Violin enters fast HA SSD apps server market
Editor:- April 22, 2014 - Violin Memory today announced general availability of its Windows Flash Array (WFA) - a 3U new fast 10GbE high availability SSD accelerated apps server (64TB raw flash capacity) - for Microsoft enterprise software environments (with unique software developed by Microsoft) which opens up a new market opportunity for Violin and which enables it to compete head to head with vendors who sell enterprise servers accelerated by PCIe SSDs or memory channel SSDs with its own proprietary solution - which integrates servers preloaded and configured with Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 with fast RDMA memory access to an internal fabric of Violin VIMM flash arrays.

Editor's comments:- This product announcement is the nexus of several past business strands for Violin and also I think marks another major reset point for the company in terms of its positioning and business potential in the SSD market.

Here are a couple of things for you to be thinking about this new product.
  • Violin was already one of the leading companies in the rackmount SSD market before this product line. Its previous products provided various ways to accelerate apps by connecting their storage to existing servers.

    With this new product - if you're using enterprise apps from Microsoft - Violin can now provide the servers too. And the fast flash is already integrated in the server blades with a low latency software connection into server RAM via custom VIMM acceleration code written by Microsoft.

    While not as scalable as some of the new vendors in the general cloud / SDS market (Violin's new system currently scales to 4 arrays) - Violin's box will be one of the 2 or 3 fastest boxes in the market today.
  • Look Ma - no PCIe SSDs!

    Less than a year after Violin made its late entry into the PCIe SSD market (in January 2013) the company's new management in 2014 was saying that it would soon exit that business.

    That exit strategy made sense even before today's announcement - because it's a different type of business. - Violin was late to market - and PCIe SSDs requires different technical and marketing support than systems. (You saw a mirror image of some of those problems with Fusion-io's clunky boostrapping of itself into also being a systems company last year.)

    In Violin's case - seen from the company's business perspective - with its WFA product - you can now see why decoupling from the PCIe SSD market makes even more sense than it did before for 2 more reasons.

    1- If Violin isn't using its own PCIe SSD form factors in its own servers (but using its proprietary VIMMs instead) then why should anyone else use them?

    2 - Another reason in the balance is that the WFA will compete directly with server makers who are in the market for PCIe SSDs. If Violin found it hard trying to sell PCIe SSD to server makers before - the company's entry into the SSD server market would shrink such design prospects even more.
  • A new style of marketing.

    When I spoke last week - ostensibly about the WFA product briefing - to Eric Herzog, Violin's new CMO - I started by repeating something I'd already said to him earlier by email.

    Violin's big Achilles heel in recent years in my view had been its marketing.

    Since September 2011 (long before the company's IPO) I had been saying to readers on these pages as directly as I could that Violin's marketing communications and advertising was not fit for purpose.

    I told Eric that I regarded his arrival in the company as a way to change all that.

    He told me that he agreed - and had already taken steps to correct a lot of past obvious mistakes.

    On the business development side he said the new management team at Violin included a strong hybrid of skills in both big enterprise companies and startups.

    On a personal level - having left a lot of money on the table from his previous post in coming to join Violin - he believed there was a great opportunity for Violin to be much more successful than it has been upto now. And a part of what he would be doing is ensuring that the company communicated more clearly - in the same kind of language that its customers used - what Violin was all about and how its solutions made good business sense.
Going back to the WFA product launch. I think the WFA is the most significant new product direction for Violin since the company switched away from using DRAM in its rackmount SSD arrays - and over to using flash (in November 2008)."
Marketers in the enterprise flash array market like to believe that when they introduce new features into successive product generations these will always be regarded as having some value by potential customers.

But that's not always true.

That's where the the segment multiplication factor of design stability comes in.
Decloaking hidden segments in the enterprise
Violin's 1st quarterly report
Editor:- November 25, 2013 - Now that Violin is a public company - it has to publicly report revenue etc - and in its first such report for the quarter ended October 31 - revenue was $28 million - which the company says was 37% more than a year ago. ...more in SSD news
VMEM? - "Ouch" - says Business Insider
Editor:- September 28, 2013 - 2 days ago (Thursday) Violin Memory announced the pricing of its IPO which began trading on the NYSE Friday as "VMEM". The company got the money it wanted - $162 million - but those who bought at the original price didn't consider themselves quite so lucky.

"Ouch" - was how Julie Bort summarized this in her article in Business Insider - re Violin's Awful IPO.

Editor's comments:- the weaknesses in Violin's past track record at delivering promised revenue following earlier investments and the intrinsic low scalability and restricted reach of its eccentric advertising preferences were reported on these pages early enough to warn you.

I think the company will have to change its marketing - and not simply spend more on what it does already - to satisfy its investors and ensure continuity of the technical roadmap for its customers.

See also:- Why Violin Memory's IPO Disappointed, by the CEO of Nimbus Data - who was at an investor's conference at JP Morgan Chase's San Francisco offices just at the time VMEM launched.
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