Violin Memory enters PCIe server flash SSD market with Velocity

Violin Memory enters the PCIe server flash SSD market with Velocity cards that aim at server flash pioneer Fusion-io, with claims of doubled price/performance advantages

Violin Memory has added a range of PCIe flash cards to its product family that previously comprised solely of all-flash arrays.

The four new Velocity cards come in 1TB, 2TB, 4TB and 8TB capacities, with Violin claiming increased driver software efficiency, lower power and cooling requirements and better per GB performance over rival products from the likes of Fusion-io.

Increased software efficiency comes, claims Violin, from building the driver onto silicon on the cards, from which they can be booted if required. Fusion-io, by contrast, installs driver software onto servers, using CPU processing cycles.

Boosted power and cooling efficiency also comes from the physical size of some of the new cards, with the 1TB card occupying a low-profile format and only the 8TB card being of full dimensions.

The Velocity cards range from 110,000 IOPS (1TB) to 500,000 IOPS (8TB) and with a list price of $3/GB for the 1TB card and $6/Gb for the others.

Explaining the foray into the PCIe flash card market, EMEA managing director Garry Veale said, “Customers have been asking us for this; it targets a different use case to our flash arrays, in particular scale-out databases and applications such as MySQL, NoSQL and Hadoop.”

Violin called its Velocity products “generation two” cards and claims a two- to four-times price performance advantage over Fusion-io.

Placing flash in the server on PCIe format cards is one of the key ways of deploying flash in the datacentre. Other approaches include the use of all flash arrays and of mixing flash and spinning disk HDDs in hybrid arrays.

PCIe flash is used for very high performance requirements when latency between the server processor and cached data must be kept to a minimum.

The cards are based on multi-level cell (MLC) flash chips. MLC has been seen as consumer grade memory especially in contrast with the very high performance single level cell (SLC) NAND flash chip.

For that reason so-called enterprise MLC (eMLC) arose, with manufacturers claiming boosted endurance measures. More recently, however, suppliers have started to drop the ‘e’ or, for example in the case of Samsung Semiconductor, offer MLC and eMLC products of differing specification.

Violin Memory also announced a deepened relationship with investor and silicon supplier Toshiba, which will see the chip maker manufacture its cards and distribute them in Asia. Violin has an exclusive supply agreement with Toshiba and access to its product R&D roadmap.

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