Violin Memory is my favorite storage vendor for 2000+ seat VDI projects right now

A few weeks ago I visited Violin Memory, an enterprise storage vendor. I had managed to avoid them for the past ten years or so, because, you know, their name is Violin Memory, and I had assumed they made memory.

So anyway it turns out they don't make memory—they make flash-based storage appliances. But what sets them apart and what I really like is their hardware. Yeah, they have the same Toshiba SSD chips that everyone else uses. The difference is that most enterprise flash-based storage vendors have racks full of SSDs. The problem with an SSD is that it's a single self contained unit. It has a myopic view of the world and handles its own reads, writes, wear leveling, garbage collection, and caching on its own irrespective of what's happening around it, and all your reads and writes are shoved across the same controller. So yeah your 3U storage appliance might have 20 SSDs in it, but your storage software and file system is actually going to see them as 20 SSDs. Violin, on the other hand, doesn't see 20 SSDs, rather, they see hundreds of individual flash chips that they can access in a much smarter way. (Imagine breaking a single 64k write into 64, 1k chunks it can send to 64 separate chips rather than getting a single 64k write.)

Actually rather than trying to explain all this, I saw Violin again last week at VMworld and got one of their engineers, Matt Henderson, to explain and show how it all works. This dude is awesome. He talks more and faster than me. (Fast forward to 1 minute to skip past my blabbing.)

The biggest downside to Violin (apart from their misleading name) is that their appliances start at over $100k. So if you're doing VDI for two or three thousands users, this thing is awesome. If you're doing VDI for a few hundred users, something like Violin is probably out of your budget (unless you can convince your storage people to use the same appliance for a bunch of non-VDI things too).

So, thoughts on Violin? Anyone have any hands on experience?

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I would argue that when you say "everyone else is just using racks of  SSD's you'd buy from Amazon..." That would reflect on many of the legacy storage vendors now trying to architect a 20+ year old storage OS to use flash.  Most, if not all, next gen flash and hybrid storage vendors have written file systems with flash in mind from the ground up.  


Why put RAID on flash at all if you only use it for what it's good at?...Random reads.


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Agree that a lot of new storage vendors are writing their own file systems, but they're still limited by the firmware of the individual SSDs and the fact they're all connected via a traditional storage bus.


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So for smaller solutions and even to enhance/broaden larger environments, server side acceleration could be a great consideration. Did you manage to visit PernixData at VM World. Intelligent acceleration for Commoditized flash/memory!


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I can't help but think that Violin Memory are the Bugatti of the storage world, a brilliantly engineered fantastically expensive solution to a problem that doesn't really exist, at least not in the VDI world.


Tightly integrated scale out VDI appliances are cheaper, more flexible, lower risk, and most importantly keep the IOPS need them.  


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