Violin and Microsoft play a duet to speed up applications

The storage vendor put Windows Storage Server in its flash array for enterprises

Violin Memory's Windows Flash Array

Violin Memory's Windows Flash Array

A partnership between Microsoft and Violin Memory will let enterprises tightly tie a new all-flash storage array to their servers, speeding up popular Microsoft applications.

The newly-introduced Violin's Windows Flash Array is a version of the company's 64TB storage array that's been modified to run Windows Storage Server 2012 R2. The system has more powerful blade servers and network interface cards than the standard array, but the star of the show is the Microsoft storage software, which Violin integrated into its system through joint coding modifications with Microsoft, said Eric Herzog, Violin's chief marketing officer.

Windows Storage Server is essentially a server operating system designed for use in external storage platforms. But the joint software development between Violin and Microsoft yielded an additional benefit: The companies included RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access) and SMB (Server Message Block) Direct on the flash array, allowing it to deliver data right into the memory of Windows application servers, Herzog said. That's a faster way to get data where it needs to be for use in Microsoft applications. It also saves compute cycles on the app server's CPU that would otherwise be tied up bringing bits into memory from the external storage.

"Instead of the app servers moving data back and forth, the storage moves it back and forth over the SMB protocol," Herzog said.

Violin's beta tests so far have shown performance gains for Hyper-V, Microsoft VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) and SQL Server, Herzog said. Other Microsoft applications should benefit, too, he said.

The deal brings Violin storage software features such as replication, cloning and snapshots that it had lacked, according to analyst Arun Taneja of the consultancy Taneja Group. While that's a big win for Violin, the main benefit to enterprises is the RDMA capability and the performance boost that comes with it. That differentiates Violin's storage software from that of other flash array vendors, albeit only in this product and for Microsoft applications.

It's true that combining Violin's all-flash array with Windows Storage Server should speed up Microsoft application servers, but what the two companies have done could have bigger implications in the future, according to Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Brian Garrett.

With blade-server hardware and what's essentially a Windows server OS inside the Violin array, the app servers don't even need to be there anymore, Garrett said. Violin could add the Hyper-V hypervisor to the platform and run virtual machines with apps, or virtual desktops, right in the array.

This kind of all-in-one storage and computing platform would offer even faster access to the data stored on Violin's flash, since there would be no network to traverse, Garrett said. Such a platform would be tailor-made for high-density VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), and it would reduce overall space, power and cooling needs for any application.

Violin might consider such an architecture in the future, but not on the current blade servers in the Windows Flash Array, Herzog said.

The Windows Flash Array is shipping now. It includes eight 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports with RDMA-enabled network interface cards. It's priced in the same range as the company's standard flash arrays, around US$750,000 to $800,000, Herzog said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags storageViolin Memory

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?