Violin Memory Blog

Hear what the experts at Violin Memory have to say about a variety of topics on all things Flash.

Why Does An All-Flash Array Architecture Matter More Than Ever?

by on January 20, 2015

The beginning of a new year is often an opportunity to reflect and make resolutions. In storage, you may be part of a growing group of customers that has made the resolution to stop investing in disk, and make the move to flash. In this blog series, I will share with you why not all enterprise flash storage is made the same; and that architecture matters.

Violin was one of the first pioneers to see the potential of flash in the enterprise. At that time, even though the cost of flash was in the tens of dollars per gigabyte (which is hard to imagine today), the customer need was clear and some of the largest corporations on the planet were unable to scale their real-time applications on disk, constrained by its inherent latency and IOPS issues.

Today, these customers have deployed Violin to run in environments such as the real-time inventory management for millions of SKUs in retail, consolidating real-time billing records for millions of cell phone users, executing billions of dollars’ worth of real-time daily stock transactions or managing the source code for ten thousand Android developers.

The cost of flash has come down dramatically, and we offer the best performance/price ratio in the industry. With the adoption of inline data-reduction technologies and the continued cost erosion of NAND (including the emergence of 3D NAND), customers are now clearly making the decision to deploy all-flash arrays for tier-1 primary storage.

But what does it really take to deploy flash for primary tier-1 storage?

Let’s first understand what this means: using flash for primary tier-1 storage means the consolidation of a diverse and large set of multiple and mixed workloads on a single platform, with the aim to simplify and reduce the cost of storage management.

There are several implications when doing this:

  • The platform must be able to scale towards petabytes and provide a continuous and non-disruptive expansion path as the data grows in the enterprise
  • The platform must be highly resilient and offer state-of-the-art data protection capabilities, as after all, data loss in this environment is absolutely unacceptable
  • The concentrated set of data makes the platform an ideal place to do inline deduplication and compression, which helps bring the cost of the solution to that of enterprise disk
  • Workloads are getting virtualized or containerized, requiring tight integration with the virtualization or cloud layers
  • Simple management and automation tools are essential

Choosing the right all-flash array that can deliver all of this comes down to picking the right architecture first and foremost.

At Violin we believe the right architecture has the combination of the following 3 product characteristics:

  • The best performance (measured as a combination of minimum of latency with a maximum of IOPS)
  • The lowest possible price/GB
  • The maximum amount of mature software features

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First, you get the best performance by delivering the lowest latency with the highest IOPS based on the underlying hardware architecture.

We all know that slow I/O holds back total system performance, and clearly you can’t have an all-flash array with “too much performance”. Who would not want to unleash all the power of their servers, reduce application software license costs, and lessen the carbon and physical footprint of their storage to the fullest extent possible?

Second, the lowest possible price/GB needs to be achieved through a combination of driving the lowest possible physical raw cost structure and reducing overprovisioning, and leveraging data-reduction technologies such as inline deduplication and compression.

This is only achieved by making the right system architectural tradeoffs between hardware and software. SSD-based architectures can’t deliver this. You must build your own flash modules from the ground up for the lowest possible raw flash cost and highest possible performance. In software it is about developing an inline de-duplication and compression engine that tightly ties into the hardware flash layer, helping to minimize the cost per gigabyte, but not at the cost of performance and latency.

Finally, software capabilities such as storage data management and data protection need to be all optimized for the underlying hardware architecture and must have been hardened in real life deployments.

While this may sound simple, the reality is that this takes time to get right and properly integrated on an all-flash array: even though some storage vendors have been creatively bundling their heterogeneous storage virtualization products with their all-flash array, this often results in complex and difficult-to-manage products.

At Violin, we believe that we are building the best all-flash array with the right architecture, delivering the right features at the right price. Let’s start the conversation and discuss how we can help you and your company be wildly successful in 2015.

In the next installment of this series, I will talk a bit more about the economics of flash storage versus disk. Stay tuned!

Introducing the “Architecture Matters” Blog Series

Ouissal-Said-95x125Inarguably, it has never been a better time to be a storage user deciding on a next-generation all-flash array. The last 18 months have been a phenomenal time for the storage industry, with a flurry of all-flash array product announcements, each claiming unique approaches to solving the challenges of getting rid of disk and going all-flash.

Here at Violin, we think this is great. After all, choice and competition drives innovation, affordability and out-of-the-box thinking, all ultimately helping more customers enjoy the benefits of flash and transforming their businesses. And providing “the flash experience” to our customers has been a core part of our DNA from the moment that we started and pioneered flash for enterprise.

One of my favorite parts of my job is to have the opportunity to meet many customers from all over the world across different industries, and learn from them about what they need in order to make the companies they work for and themselves successful. Based on all my customer interactions, I am more than ever convinced that flash is poised to be one of the largest disruptions and fastest technology shifts that the IT industry has ever witnessed.

History books will be viewing the disruption from spinning disk to flash as one of the same magnitude as how we went from mainframes to cloud, from local area networks to the global Internet and from voice landlines to mobile broadband. And similar to all these technology disruptions, the move to flash will challenge status quo and the established vendor landscape in ways that we right now cannot even fully comprehend.

The indicators of this shift are solid; for instance:

  • Flash dominates the tier-0 storage layer and the customer interest to use flash in tier-1 primary storage continues to dramatically increase with every month that passes by
  • The adoption of flash is being considered by customers on a petabyte scale level, rather than a terabyte level
  • The analysts call out the all-flash array market as currently the fastest growing infrastructure market in the IT industry
  • Traditional big disk storage companies all are offering or have announced all-flash array products, signaling effectively all-flash arrays have gone mainstream

Choosing the right next-generation all-flash array to replace your legacy tier-1 disk or hybrid storage array may not always be that simple with the number of options available. However, ultimately, as we have seen in other transitions in the IT industry that I mentioned before, the choice did not necessarily boil down to a specific vendor, but it came down to picking the right architecture first and foremost.

As the head of product management, strategy and technical sales at Violin, I believe that because of our long experience in enterprise flash and deep conversations with our long-standing blue chip customer base, we understand what is needed to build the best all-flash array.

I will share more with you about what we have learned and how we are applying this in our products in a series of blogs that I call “Architecture Matters,” and you can read the first episode right here.

Want to get the full story right now? Just contact us today and we will be more than glad to talk you through why Violin is the best choice for your next-generation all-flash tier-1 primary storage.

Cloud Computing

by on January 5, 2015

cloud-computing

Run a simple search. “What is Cloud Computing?”

It will yield thousands of whitepapers, blogs and videos, some a few short words, some that run to great length. All of them saying essentially the same thing: cloud computing is there when you need it and not there when you don’t.

Imagine that you are in a meeting on a new business iniative. Tremendous new data sets will be generated and required service levels will be high. You send a text to your leading cloud storage provider requesting 30 Terabytes of additional storage with the maximum available data protections applied, and it must be available ASAP… “Done” the reply text a few seconds later.

Peak Shaving

In another scenario, it is determined that web traffic to your sites is unevenly distributed over the course of a day. With the agility to scale cloud based storage up and down, from hour to hour, you only pay for peak resources needed to maintain service targets when you need them. Releasing those resources between peak usage periods can result in significant savings.

If demand for IT resources have a different period – perhaps your operations organization runs ERP weekly, or your sales force loads up the systems with orders at the end of the month, or finance and accounting need to run general ledger at the end of the quarter – the agility of the cloud, the reliability of storage built on Violin technologies and the cost savings realized when the resources are released back into the cloud are still important considerations in the process of selecting a cloud storage provider.

Hybrid Cloud

Peak Shaving is one of the benefits of a Hybrid Cloud Strategy, as the illustration below shows. This implementation has IT resources configured in a traditional in-house data center to meet an organization’s routine, baseline requirements. Some redundancy, performance, and security might be derived from this approach, while spikes in demand are handled without friction by calling in resources from the cloud when needed.

The space between the spikes in demand represent savings to the IT budget because the organization does not need to spend the capital or labor to provision for the peaks. From a financial and staffing perspective, the peaks in demand are “shaved off”, while users still enjoy high levels of service.

diagram-peak-shaving

Enterprise Grade Data Protection, Efficiency and Continuity Services

Integrated deployment of Violin Memory All Flash Array storage technologies allows cloud storage providers to offer tiered, flexible data protection options that can be tuned at a granular level to meet your needs by application, workload or use case. Enterprise data protection software from Violin can be managed at a granular level, turned on and off at the LUN, LUN group or consistency level.

Summary

Cloud based storage is one method available for meeting business needs for IT resources. It offers IT professionals the chance to be more agile, to respond more quickly and efficiently, manage costs more closely, maybe even more efficiently, but there are risks.

How is a senior decision maker to pick the right partner from today’s cloud storage providers? How is a working level IT professional to sort through the bold marketing claims to build and defend a recommendation their company can rely on?

All flash storage arrays from vendors like Violin Memory in the cloud storage provider’s solution is one strong indicator that they are a leader, that their products and services will live up to expectations, and that your company’s data will be available whenever it is needed.

True Cost of Enterprise Flash Storage

by on December 29, 2014

Enterprise Flash Storage Analysis

Today’s enterprises run on hot, up-to-date data. Active data provides near-term value to the enterprise. Data such as transactions, inventory levels, customer information, manufacturing processes and such have top and bottom line impacts on business. Data Center managers often view storage as an investment in capacity. Instead, they ought to be considering how much work data can perform. When placing storage on disk to save money, the true cost of disk storage needs to be considered. To get more work out of disk, several techniques are used that also impact the true cost of storage.

One commonly used method to get more work out of disk drives is short-stroking. This is taking advantage of the mechanics of disk drives by only using the outer tracks of the disk to read and write because the outside tracks spins faster than the inside. Aggressive short stroking will use only the outer 10% of the disk’s capacity in order to get the best possible performance from the disk. That means that disk you’ve paid $0.50/GB for really costs you $5/GB. That also means you’re now paying more than the effective price of flash storage, and still getting less work out of the disk due to inferior performance when compared to flash.

Also consider overprovisioning. There are a couple of ways to overprovision, and they are not mutually exclusive. On the disk drive model, if you have a workload that needs 5,000 IOPS of performance, and each disk drive can deliver 200 IOPS at the outer tracks, you need 25 HDDs to deliver the IOPS. Of course, if they’re 600GB HDDs, you also get 15TB of capacity which may have nothing to do with the application capacity needs. The other way to overprovision is to add a caching layer of flash. This might be a separate appliance or adding flash or even DRAM in the application server. The costs vary widely, of course, but let’s make a simplifying assumption that it will cost half of what short stroking costs, $2.50/GB.

Finally, we have the environmental costs. Spinning disk burns more energy than flash drives. The latest disk technology will be more efficient than older disk technology. Customers have seen up to 90% savings with Violin all flash arrays compared to their existing disk based arrays. If we just look at current generation disk arrays the difference might be 54% based on a power calculator on the SUN website. This works out to $4.23/GB per year less expensive than today’s disk based arrays. The cost of cooling is also less with flash than disk based systems. Using the same logic, it works out to a whopping $14.82/GB per year for cooling. And that number will be higher for older enterprise disk systems.


We started with a $0.50/GB disk drive. If we were going to add all this up, the cost of all flash storage compared to disk-based storage arrays works out to:

Short Stroking: $5/GB
Overprovisioning: $2.50/GB
Energy: $4.23/GB/year
Cooling: $14.82/GB/year

If we assume the Violin All Flash Array sells for $5/GB, that works out to $21/GB more for disk based enterprise storage over Violin All Flash Arrays. So when we say that you can get Violin All Flash Arrays for the cost of disk, we are being very generous to the disk based enterprise arrays. This quick look doesn’t include the controller or software expense. We didn’t include any of the hardware benefits from server consolidation you can achieve by getting the I/O wait times of Flash. It doesn’t include the software savings if you consolidate servers. It doesn’t include the reduced management effort for short stroking and overprovisioning. It doesn’t include the reduced floorspace available with high-density Violin All Flash Arrays compared to disk or hybrid storage arrays. We only looked at OPEX for the first year, obviously that could be extended to the total useful life of the array. Finally, it doesn’t include the incremental application benefits from sub-millisecond performance of Violin All Flash Arrays that might allow you to find new revenue opportunities like a major telecom company that discovered they were providing more minutes than they were billing for. A disk based array couldn’t solve the problem. A hybrid array couldn’t solve the problem. A Violin All Flash Array allowed them to get paid for the minutes they were already providing.

With the arrival of true enterprise data services at Violin Memory, there really isn’t a good reason to not move to All Flash Arrays from Violin. It makes sense on a CAPEX basis. It makes sense on an OPEX basis. It works on a functional basis with Violin’s Enterprise Data Services. It works on a management basis with Violin’s Symphony management.

What are you waiting for?

CIO Predictions 2015

by on December 23, 2014

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With smartphones now carrying more power than the original PC’s and laptops, IT has become a commodity to many C-level execs similar to chairs, machinery, or any other item used to run a company. CIO’s are now constantly challenged by other C-level execs – CEO’s, CFO’s, and Line-of-business owners – on what IT is doing to “impact the business.”

In 2015, CIO’s can make a tangible difference to the business. How? There is one data center technology that has now come to its own – enterprise flash storage.  All flash solutions are making a huge impact on OPEX and CAPEX. By replacing traditional enterprise storage products with all flash storage solutions, CIO’s now can “impact the business” in several ways.

First, leveraging all flash enterprise storage allows CIO’s to improve Line of Business and external customer application delivery, as well as SLA’s. Ever have the finance team waiting for their reports to finish? Or even run into the next day’s operations? All flash storage reduces that dramatically – in some cases from days to literally an hour or under. Got customers waiting for orders to process or websites to refresh or their software to load from the remote service provider? CIO’s can solve that with all flash storage.

Second, there is dramatic impact on the CIO’s portion of the budget pie. CIO’s can save as much as 70% or more, on their overall data center, software license, physical server, virtualization infrastructure, IT manpower, and environmental expenses.

Lastly, all flash storage enables new business models and revenue development. As an example, one of the world’s largest Telco’s has developed a billing system that allows them to realize new revenue streams just by moving some of their billing applications to all flash storage. In fact, this new billing system will allow this large Telco to bill an additional $140M per year.

In short, CIO’s can substantially “impact the business” by simply moving from traditional enterprise storage to all flash solutions. All this can happen at the same cost of traditional enterprise storage.

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