This article is part of our Essential Guide: A guide to flash storage

Violin Memory launches full-featured 7300 and 7700 series flash arrays

Violin Memory launches 7300 and 7700 series all-flash arrays with replication, failover, WAN optimisation and data deduplication

All-flash array maker Violin Memory has launched two new arrays – the standalone 7300 series with pay-as-you-go capacity increases that can scale up to around 220TB effective capacity, and the modular (head-plus-shelves) 7700 series that can scale to 1.3PB effective capacity with data deduplication.

Both series incorporate advanced storage features such as snapshots and replication, while the 7300 also has data deduplication and can bring this feature to the 7700 by using it as a shelf behind 7700 heads.

The launch also sees Violin’s operating system (OS) upgraded and rebranded from version 6 of vMOS to Concerto 7. Features common to the 7300 and 7700 include snapshots, asynchronous replication and continuous data protection, thin provisioning and WAN optimisation.

Violin claims one million input-output operations per second (IOPS) for the arrays, but this is for read-only operations, which are the least troublesome for flash storage to deal with. Writes are more long-winded, due to the need to erase and repurpose flash cells after use – the so-called program/erase (P/E) cycle.

Violin goes some way to addressing this by allowing simultaneous reads and writes on the same Raid stripe across sets of five Violin flash modules (Vimms). Concerto can read data from a busy Vimm using parity information while data is being written across the others.

Violin’s Vimms are Toshiba flash storage on custom-designed Violin cards.

Features exclusive to the 7700 series are synchronous replication, metro clustering that allows replication, and failover in case of disaster, scaling up to six shelves.

The 7300 array has granular data deduplication, but can be used as a shelf in a 7700 setup.

Synchronous replication writes data simultaneously to multiple targets, whereas asynchronous replication writes to local media before replicating to remote drives. Synchronous replication is limited by physical constraints to operating over shorter distances than asynchronous.

Violin’s 7300E series can be populated with drive capacity by increments – 11TB, 17TB, 26TB and 35TB, and up to 125TB with deduplication – in 32 Vimms in a pay-as-you-go arrangement, while the 7300 series comes with 70TB in 64 Vimms, providing a claimed 220TB with dedupe.

The supplier will phase out its existing 6000 series arrays by the end of 2015.

Violin’s enhancement of the 7000 series arrays comes at a time when hybrid flash appears to be making big strides among customers. Many perceive all-flash arrays as expensive or too high in performance for their needs, or they are happy to trial flash in existing arrays or attempt to target it at performance-critical data.

But Violin product marketing director Erik Ottem said: “The big six – EMC etc – are moving to all-flash and we’re seeing that all-flash and hybrid flash are converging in terms of price. Meanwhile, we believe we can deliver flash at a cost of $4 to $5 per gigabyte or $1.50 with data deduplication.”

Violin Memory experienced a rocky period following a disappointing initial public offering in late 2013. In 2014, however, following the appointment in February of new CEO Kevin DeNuccio, the company appeared to steady itself with internal reshuffles, the decision to ditch its PCIe flash business, renewed focus on the channel and the launch of the feature-heavy Concerto 7000 series.

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