Violin and Toshiba will collaborate to manufacture and sell PCIe SSD cards to data center customers. Combining PCIe technology with direct access to flash memory manufacturing will boost both companies to market leadership.
On 4 March 2013, the storage solution provider Violin Memory and Toshiba, its lead investor, announced that they will extend their alliance to develop, manufacture and distribute Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) solid-state drives (SSDs). PCIe card price points will start at $3 per GB and $6 per GB for the higher-end offering.
The deepening alliance between Toshiba and Violin Memory, which Gartner named a Cool Vendor in 2011 (see "Cool Vendors in Storage Technologies, 2011" ) will foster credible competition in the emerging PCIe SSD market and enable the creation of more innovative data center solutions as flash memory reaches lower price points. Price points for PCIe cards indicate that the alliance will clearly be leveraging Toshiba's direct flash memory manufacturing capabilities.
SSDs are already a standard component with storage arrays. Within the next three years, Gartner expects they will also become a standard component within servers, as they offer the most economical approach to driving the highest performance with the minimal amount of latency currently possible in storage. However, the market is still just starting to emerge. Toshiba's and Violin's alliance and the recently announced strategic partnership between Virident and Seagate will challenge the lead PCIe SSD supplier Fusion-io. As competition intensifies, prices erode, standardization occurs and software further enhances the value proposition, the use of PCIe cards will extend beyond their core market of hyperscale customers into transaction processing, in-memory computing and increasingly virtualized environments. Data management software capabilities are likely the next area of innovation related to this market.
In addition to boosting the PCIe market, this strategic alliance will benefit both companies:
Toshiba will gain immediate credibility in its enterprise Flash portfolio by licensing technology already proven in Violin Flash appliances, which have been shipping since 2010. Toshiba needs to establish itself with data center hyperscale customers and server and storage OEMs. A strong PCIe solution would strengthen Toshiba's other storage SSD products, which thus far have attained limited adoption. While Toshiba can leverage its distribution and, eventually, its brand to these PCIe cards, the company will also benefit from Violin Memory's handling of support and services capabilities.
Violin Memory solidifies its access to NAND technology and intellectual property critical for the development of scalable, cost-effective solutions. As a startup with a potential IPO in 2Q13, Violin Memory benefits from the credibility and sustainability conferred by a Tier I strategic partner that can help Violin develop future flash-based storage and controller technology solutions — which also relate to Violin's core business of SSD appliances.
Data center professionals:
Evaluate the PCIe SSD capabilities and obtain performance and reliability guarantees in advance of setting service-level agreements.
Inquire into data management software features that can enhance the value proposition and simplify integration into existing server infrastructures.
Storage OEMs and hyperscale storage customers:
Evaluate Violin and Toshiba solutions, as both companies are credible, cost-effective suppliers that deserve attention during the qualification process.
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"Forecast Analysis: NAND, Worldwide, 2011-2016, 4Q12 Update" —The flash industry is poised for a supply-led recovery in 2013 and 2014 after a decline in NAND revenue in 2012 to $23.1 billion. By Joseph Unsworth
"When Implementing SSDs, Ease of Use Is More Important Than Cost-Effectiveness" — When deciding between point SSD solutions or SSD solutions that are integrated into a storage array, the fundamental choice is one of short-term complexity, rewards and profit versus long-term simplicity, sustainability and costs. By Valdis Filks and Joseph Unsworth