Supplier hype-watch: Violin and DataCore at SNW Europe

IT trade events like SNW Europe this week are a great opportunity to study the techniques employed in IT suppliers’ marketing messages.

Some use out-and-out distortions of commonly-understood technical terms.

Violin Memory, for example, loves to emphasise the second word in its name, ie “memory”. A strapline it uses is, “Run business at the speed of memory” and we’re asked to think not as storage admins but as “memory architects” using its “persistent memory architecture” etc etc.

But how does all that stack up? Memory traditionally is the media on the motherboard closest to the CPU where a portion of the data and the application reside during working operations. Now, Violin may produce some very fast all flash arrays but are we really talking “the speed of memory” here?

Its high-end 6000 Series, for example – “Primary storage at the speed of memory” – product specsheets don’t distinguish between reads and writes and offer latencies of “under 250 μsec” for SLC variants and “under 500 μsec” for the MLC variants.

I asked Violin CTO Mick Bradley how they could call it “memory” when it doesn’t appear to conform with the commonly understood meaning of memory either architecturally or in terms of performance. His reply was: “We call it memory because it’s silicon and it is addressed in pages of 16K.”

Hmmm, such a definition doesn’t cut much ice, especially now there is flash storage that does operate at the speed of memory. An example of this so-called memory channel storage is Smart’s UlltraDIMM, launched earlier this year. Such a product could claim to operate “at the speed of memory” with write latency of less than 5 μsec and being actually located in motherboard DIMM memory slots.

Meanwhile, others change the way they describe their product according to which way the wind is blowing.

Storage virtualisation software vendor DataCore is a great example here. At SNW Europe this week, DataCore EMEA solutions architect Christian Marczinke told us how the firm had been the pioneer of “software-defined storage“.

Err, hang on there. DataCore’s use of software-defined storage to describe its products is dates back less than nine months and is clearly a response to the use of the term by VMware with its overall software-defined datacentre push and EMC’s ViPR hype.

In fact, until around a year ago DataCore referred to its product as a “storage hypervisor”, clearly bending with the wind blown from VMware’s direction. I dealt with that issue of nomenclature here.

Does all this quibbling over terminology matter? Well, on the one hand, it obviously matters to the likes of Violin and DataCore, who despite having great products, clearly feel the need to over-egg their puddings. And on the other hand to IT journalists it matters because it’s our job to ensure customers get a clear view of what products actually are.

To be continued . . .