Violin Memory Unveils Cache Appliances For File-Based Data

Scalable memory array developer Violin Memory this week unveiled a new multiterabyte capacity solid-state cache memory system aimed at increasing the storage performance of enterprise applications.

Violin's new vCACHE is targeted at dramatically increasing the performance of NFS (Network File System, or NAS) storage, said Matt Barletta, vice president of product marketing for the Mountain View, Calif.-based vendor.

Violin's primary product line is a series of solid-state storage arrays built using SLC NAND Flash memory in capacities of up to 10 TBs, or up to 40 TBs using lower-cost MLC NAND.

The company has offered solid-state cache with its arrays, but they were focused on Fibre Channel connectivity, Barletta said. "For NFS NAS, our product was perfect, but we didn't have the software to enable it," he said.

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That changed in June when Violin acquired Mountain View-based Gear6, a provider of NAS and Memcached solutions which improve the scalability of dynamic Web applications and content.

The new vCACHE takes advantage of the Gear6 software to enable the caching of NFS data for Violin's arrays, Barletta said.

"The Gear6 software sits in a memory gateway, which is a server that connects to our memory arrays," he said. "Or it can sit on the network in front of everybody's file servers."

The NFS vCACHE helps solve a problem called cache thrashing, Barletta said. "If the data set is larger than the cache, you need to evict some memory, write it, then evict more, then write more," he said. "This slows down the cache. Ideally, you want to put the entire data set in Flash memory."

With the vCACHE, it is possible to cache entire data sets, Barletta said. "Never before could cache vendors put 10 TBs of cache in front of their storage," he said.

Gear6, before it was acquired by Violin, used DRAM for its cache, but it maxed out at 1-TB capacity, and was very expensive, Barletta said.

By using SLC NAND memory, Violin's new vCACHE costs about 85 percent less per GB of capacity, and is much more reliable, he said.

The new vCACHE is already in beta tests at DreamWorks and Sony Imageworks, and other beta implementations will be set up working with arrays that have been in production for about three years, Barletta said. "We'll get great data before we go to market to validate our solution very quickly," he said.

Next: Channel Focus

About 90 percent of Violin's sales go through indirect sales channels, said Ken Hoppe, Violin's vice president of channels.

"Our sales force is customer facing, but every deal is done with a VAR or a systems integrator," Hoppe said.

Violin does not use distributors, but prefers to work directly with solution providers, Hoppe said.

"We're not looking for mass distribution," he said. "We're looking for partners who invest in the time and resources needed to develop this business."

The vCACHE appliances are available with prices starting at $40,000.