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Violin tunes SSD memory appliance

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Violin Memory sells a solid state disk (SSD) appliance, using DRAM and not flash memory, and FalconStor is supporting this to make its latest software perform very much faster. Blocks and Files was able to talk with Morgan Littlewood, VP of Marketing at Violin Memory, and ask him some questions about solid state disks.

B&F: How would Violin compare and contrast its Memory appliance to TMS's RamSan products, both the DRAM and DRAM-cached flash memory products?

Morgan Littlewood: The TMS Ramsan 400 provides 128GB of DRAM in 3U. Violin 1010 provides 504GB in 2U... it’s about 6X the density in a rack and 80 percent less power per GB. These benefits translate into a 50 percent lower total cost of ownership.

DRAM cached Flash in the RAMSAN 500 behaves like Flash for random reads. There is a 200 microsecond access time. The Violin 1010 with DRAM has a 3 microsecond access time…it's 65 times faster.

The Violin 1010 with Flash is not yet available, but will be significantly denser and more power-efficient again. We'll say more later this year.

B&F: I'd like to understand Violin's view of the EMC Symmetrix arrays with a tier 0 of STEC flash memory SSD drives.

Morgan Littlewood: Today's storage systems are designed and optimized for rotating disks. The total system is very large, expensive and slow when compared with a memory appliance.

The Violin 1010 memory appliance is designed from the ground-up for just memory. The Violin 1010 with DRAM is similar in price to the high performance disk storage system with Flash and is 65 times faster. The Violin 1010 with Flash will have a much better price/performance characteristic and consume much less space and power.

B&F: What is Violin's view of how the SSD market and products are going to develop. How will the cost per SSD GB progress over the next few years.

Morgan Littlewood: We expect Flash prices to continue to drop with Moore's law and multilevel cell technology.

B&F: How will write cycle endurance progress? What will happen with regard to single layer cells and multi layer cells.

Morgan Littlewood: For Flash chips the endurance cycle gets worse with multilevel cell technology. It is the systems that have to solve the problem for the users. In the end there will be many classes of Flash storage, just like there are many classes of disk drives.

DRAM should be used for high frequency write applications, like caching, high performance databases and metadata. A mix of the two technologies is likely to be the best solution for many applications.

B&F: Does Violin see any significant technology improvements to flash SSDs coming along? Intel's Numonyx JV with Micron has talked of Phase Change Memory. Does Violin think this has credibility?

Morgan Littlewood: It’s difficult for systems builders to use a technology which is not sampling and for which there is no pricing. Short term it’s unlikely to have an impact, but longer term it could be interesting given its technical attributes of low read and write latency.

The Violin 1010 is unique in that it can support any memory technology. If Phase Change RAM is made available and cost competitive, we would build a new VIMM (Violin Memory Appliance) to support it.

B&F: Does Violin see itself being impacted by a patent infringement-chasing Seagate (re its suit against STEC)? What does it think of Seagate's legal attack?

Morgan Littlewood: We are interested spectators cheering on STEC.

Copyright © 2008, Blocks & Files.com

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