Violin Memory: How will new CEO change its fortunes?

Violin Memory – an all-flash storage pioneer whose trials and tribulations we have followed here – finally hit what just about rock bottom for a tech company in the past months.

That is, Violin was declared bankrupt and in January was auctioned off over a period of three days with the winner at $14.5 million an investment vehicle of the Soros Group, Quantum Partners.

Violin had been a pioneer of flash storage and had raised $162 million at its IPO in 2013. But by last year it had lost in excess of $600 million and was heading for an unseemly demise.

In early 2017 it was set for the aforementioned fire sale, of which Quantum Partners was the winner.

One must presume that the investors believe they can turn the company around.

They have appointed a new CEO, namely Ebrahim Abbassi. He comes with credentials trumpeted by Violin of having rescued three other tech outfits from the doldrums, namely Redback (turned around and acquired by Ericsson in 2006), Force 10 (acquired by Dell in 2011) and Roamware (now Mobileum).

Mr Abbassi seems to have a record of taking companies and preparing them for acquisition, so maybe that’s what Quantum Partners hopes for with Violin.

He has been at Violin for more than a year now, as COO from March 2016 before landing the top job at the end of April 2017.

Was he not able to start the turnaround sooner? Perhaps what was needed was to rid the company of debts via bankruptcy and a sweep-out of the board. That was announced, with the presence of a couple of software experts but no hardware-experienced execs.

That might indicate the directions the company will take; restructure with a bias towards software innovation and aim for a profitable acquisition.

It’s arguable that Violin’s focus on its proprietary hardware flash modules was always a potential weakness. Perhaps it is even more so now as software-defined, hyper-converged and NVMe-based approaches are de rigeur.

It’ll be interesting to see what can be done with Violin. A potential competitor/acquisition target or destined ultimately for the Where Are They Now file?