A few days ago Violin finally released a new, and very cool, solution that integrates its All-Flash array with Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2012 R2. The product, called Windows Flash Array (WFA) provides a huge amount of IOPS as well as all the advanced features usually found on Windows Server.

Violin is changing

I’ve never had very kind words for Violin (here and here a couple of examples). All the briefs I had with them in the past turned out badly, not from the technology point of view (which is good from the hardware perspective) but rather from the management, who behaved in a very arrogant manner and as a consequence so did the rest of the company.
Users don’t like this kind of approach, especially not from a startup and especially when the results are not as brilliant as expected… long story short, eventually the company fired the CEO (several key positions have also been changed in the recent months). This has led to a new management team that is turning the company and its overall strategy inside out.

WFA is the first product to be churned out after all the stirring took place and it looks like a very good step forward in the right direction.

Two words about WFA

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 08.12.17In practice, WFA architecture is very simple. Violin Memory Arrays have two small x86 blades directly attached to the backend of the storage system and they can be dedicated to run software locally. These two little servers are, in this case, dedicated to run Windows Storage Server 2012 R2. The resources available in terms of CPU power and RAM are sufficient to do the job and the 10GbE ports provide all the necessary throughput.

Each array provides up to 64TB and a maximum of 4 of them can be configured in a scale-out fashion. All the features available on Windows Server can also be used, (and I’m thinking about compression, deduplication, thin provisioning, and so on) making this a very feature-rich solution as well. (if you want to have an idea of the storage capabilities offered by Windows Server I suggest you download my report here).

Performance is impressive, also thanks to SMB 3.0 capabilities and optimizations developed in conjunction with Microsoft.
The SMB 3 protocol makes this storage solution particularly appealing for Microsoft environments like Hyper-V, SQL or high demanding file servers.

Why it is important

This announcement is important under two perspectives:

Violin array, up to now, have been niche products (powerful hardware but poor in terms of features), WFA is the first to take a different direction by offering the end user a fast and feature-rich solution all in one.

It’s too early to say if this kind of product will also attract new customers to the company, only time will tell, but it’s a good move to show the will to change their approach towards end users, also by being more solution-oriented rather than self referential.