Reanimated Violin returns to scene with flashy XVS 8 array, and, er, AR app

NVMe-FC, predictive analytics and roadmap away from VIMMs

Violin Systems is making the most of being rescued by private equity, with new hardware and software, and a focus on tossing its hat into the all-flash array performance ring.

The company crashed into bankruptcy following a poor IPO. It was bought out of Chapter 11 by a George Soros-controlled private equity fund and relaunched only to suffer a second blow when CEO Ebrahim Abbasi resigned for health reasons.

Chairman Mark Lewis took on the CEO role. Now the firm has fired its first shot in its battle to return from the dead.

Violin has positioned its XVS 8 as a tier-0 extreme performance array with consistently low latency. Violin has claimed it is faster than mainstream all-flash arrays (AFAs) and reckons customers need fewer servers and associated software licences to run the same applications.


Violin Systems XVS 8 array

Note the circular QR tag on the lower part of the front bezel.

The current products – the FSP 7450 (340K IOPS @ 1ms), FSP 7650 (1.7m IOPS @ <500μs) and FSP7700 (2.2m IOPS @ <1ms) – offer latencies down to 150μs, and cover a roughly 100TB to 5PB effective capacity range. They use 16Gbit/s Fibre Channel host linkage or iSCSI.

The XVS 8 uses a 3U enclosure, Broadwell Xeon CPUs and 768GB of RAM, with 8GB/sec bandwidth as well as:

  • 50μs latency at max IOPS (4K, 100 per cent read with NVMe over FC)
  • 400μs latency at 1m IOPS
  • 1ms latency at 340,000 IOPS for dedupe LUN

Violin said the dedupe LUN performance has improved by about 40 per cent.

It has from 26TB to 140TB raw capacity using proprietary Violin in-line Memory Modules (VIMMS) with MLC (2bits/cell) flash. That's 14.47-88.7TB usable after system overhead and 96-512TB effective after deduplication and compression.

The system can scale to >422TB raw in one namespace (1.3PB effective) with capacity pooling across shelves.

The host connectivity is 8 x 32 Gbit/s Fibre Channel or 8 x 10 GbitE iSCSI. A future software update will enable NVMe over Fibre Channel.

Data services include stretch clustering, mirroring, granular block level deduplication by LUN, compression by LUN, WAN-optimised replication, CDP, application-consistent snapshots, thin provisioning, thin and thick clones, sync mirroring, and remote async replication.

Symphony management software can look after multiple Violin arrays. These arrays stream telemetry data to a central management resource, where machine learning routines are applied to it.


Augmented reality smartphone app

This includes a so-called augmented reality smartphone app; scan the QR code on the array's front and data is sent to the phone by Violin's cloud-based predictive analytics software, delivering real-time views of system performance. Admins can find out per-LUN performance, when capacity will run out and whether dedupe is working for specific workloads. This information is also accessible via browsers.

XVS integrates into the Splunk ecosystem for customers to get filtered call-home alerts into their Splunk dashboards.

An integration with VMware VASA 3.0 displays storage information within vCenter and allows fine VM-level control directly from vSphere, including Concerto replication, data reduction and snapshot. The XVS 8 also has native VVOL support.

There will be a Concerto OS update early in the first 2019 quarter.

There will be a second flash drive form factor coming, with SSDs, using 3D TLC NAND, attached to either or both sides of the VIMM board, providing 4 and 8TB drives, and scaling out to half a petabyte. This TLC NAND is slower than the MLC flash currently being used and the system's software needs development to overcome this.

COO Todd Oseth said the economics of SSDs would help Violin. There will need to be microcode additions to give Violin's software direct control of the flash inside the SSDs and so enable its performance.

Violin claimed the XVS 8 will have economics similar to the traditional AFA vendors but the performance of the NVMe-oF startups.

Lewis said Violin "wants to be a niche player in the overall storage market", a performance niche player. "We're typically five to seven times faster than traditional AFAs."

He reckoned that could equate to a 40-60 per cent reduction in a customer's IT infrastructure costs.

The key to Violin's success is going to be proving its tier-0 performance credentials.

The Violin XVS 8 is available through the Violin channel network now. ®

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