Violin Memory, VMware In Deal To Run Apps On All-Flash Storage Array

Flash array developer Violin Memory has signed an OEM deal with VMware that could result in its arrays becoming a new high-speed host for applications running in virtual servers.

Under the terms of the agreement, Mountain View, Calif.-based Violin will embed technology from Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware that would allow VMware's vSphere to run natively on Violin's flash arrays.

The result would be the ability to build appliances on which applications requiring high-performance access to data would run on virtual machines all in the same box, said Ashish Gupta, director of product marketing at Violin.

[Related: Gelsinger Taking Over VMware As Storage, Virtualization Come To A Crossroads ]

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Those applications include databases, virtualization and even cloud platforms, Gupta said.

Violin's all-flash arrays have inside them two x86 server cards that can be used to embed software functionality, Gupta said. "The primary purpose of our arrays is a storage solution with Fibre Channel or InfiniBand connectivity to server environments," he said. "But with these cards, we can do appliances."

Violin is not the first company to look at the possibility of running business applications in storage devices.

Pat Gelsinger, COO and president of EMC's Information Infrastructure Products division and, as of next month, the new CEO of VMware, told CRN in a recent interview that EMC next year plans to start demonstrating capabilities that allow customers to run virtual machines inside of EMC's storage arrays, all of which are based on industry-standard server hardware.

As EMC in 2013 starts introducing those capabilities in its arrays, it will be pushing the industry to question whether such devices are storage arrays or application servers with a lot of storage next to them, Gelsinger said. "And, we'll redefine how we'll start thinking about the components in the data center in the process," he said at the time.

VMware has already partnered with vendors such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard to ensure those companies' servers can run VMware-based virtualized environments, Gupta said.

"For Violin, our core value proposition is tier-one storage performance unmatched in the market," he said. "We can run over 1 million IOPS in 2U of space. We offer extreme value in virtualized environments where we can help eliminate the performance challenges that applications face."

NEXT: Preparing The Stage For An All-Flash Array-based Appliance

For now, there are no applications that run natively on the Violin all-flash storage arrays, said Vinay Gaonkar, director of product management at Violin. It will be a few months before Violin gets on VMware's hardware compatibility list.

"But, as long as our box is on the VMware HCL, from the customer perspective, they can run applications on our box as simple as the can run them on any hardware," Gaonkar said.

Gupta said that, while Violin is not a server company, its array is theoretically an open server.

"We need to do testing of apps," he said. "We want to provide targeted apps for certain workloads. We will go after certain workloads selectively. We've been working with several software companies, and announced VMware because when you can run native virtualization in the box, you can look at other apps. So, we will offer virtualized appliances. The apps will run on a virtual machine on this box."

Violin's Gupta and Gaonkar declined to discuss which applications may be in the process of being readied to run on the Violin arrays. They also declined to talk about what other virtualization or operating system vendors aside from VMware may be interested in doing so.

However, Gupta said that at the Microsoft TechEd this summer, Violin demonstrated Microsoft Windows Server 2012 running on the array. Also, he noted that SAP was a strategic investor in Violin in the company's April $50-million funding round.

"This gives an idea of the direction we can move," he said.

Violin has also been taking other steps in building what could eventually become a combined server and storage appliance on its all-flash arrays.

Violin earlier this month said it is partnering with storage software vendor Symantec to embed Symantec data management capabilities on Violin's all-flash storage arrays.