Violin Memory has a new CEO

Troubled flash storage vendor Violin Memory (s vmem) has a new president and CEO, just months after a lackluster IPO and an ensuing scandal that resulted in the termination of its previous CEO and the departure of multiple executives. The company’s new leader, Kevin DeNuccio, has led infrastructure companies before, mostly in the networking space. He was CEO of a privately held London-based company called Metaswitch Networks, and before that was president and CEO of Redback Networks when Ericsson acquired it in 2006.

AWS can’t keep its new SSD-backed instances in stock

Amazon Web Services doesn’t have enough capacity to handle demand for its new C3 instances, which has led to a rush order of new servers. In almost any other scenario, that would mean a big payday for someone like Dell or HP.

AWS beefs up cloud for super-fast data processing

Amazon Web Services has introduced its latest instance — an 88-core, 240 GB SSD, 244 GB RAM and 10 GbE behemoth designed for real-time analytics with software like SAP HANA, as well as demanding scientific workloads.

Nimble Storage gets $40M as IPO approaches

Flash storage startup Nimble Storage has raised another $40 million in preparation for an IPO within the next two years. The company, which builds appliances fusing both flash and hard disk drives, is part of a hot flash market that’s raking in venture capital.

Etsy unveils its infrastructure (and its Supermicro love)

Etsy shared the details of its hardware architecture on Friday, showing the world a whole lot of Supermicro servers running everything from web servers to Hadoop. At this point, software is the name of the game at webscale, so hardware openness is just welcome community service.

Flash storage hype vs. reality

What a week for flash storage fans. IBM snapped up flash memory maker Texas Memory SystemsSkyera emerged from stealth mode with a jaw-dropping $3 per GB all-flash array and Pure Storage, another flash storage startup, recently landed $40 million in funding. All this news comes in advance of the Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, CA next week. So what’s behind the flash splash?

Until recently flash storage was a niche market. It was targeted primarily at applications where consistency and low latency are a requirement, such as databases, virtual desktops, gaming sites and financial trading systems. But with falling prices and improved reliability it’s starting to make inroads into the enterprise, and that’s where the big bucks are in storage. According to Gartner, the flash market in enterprise storage is expected to be worth $4 billion by 2015.

But before you relegate tried and true hard disk drives to the technology graveyard, consider the quirks of solid-state drives (SSDs). For one, flash memory has a finite write lifetime, so SSDs eventually wear out. Typically, SLC flash lasts for approximately 100,000 write cycles; MLC flash is an order of magnitude worse at around 10,000 cycles for individual data cells. Beyond those points, storing and retrieving data becomes unreliable. Flash manufacturers use a number of techniques to extend life, including error correction codes, wear leveling, bad block re- mapping and over provisioning. But none of these workarounds prolongs the life of SSDs to the reliability of their spinning disk counterparts. So it’s important to understand the wear and tear issues with flash storage before deploying it.

For a heads-up on how others are using SSDs, the enterprise applications track at the Flash Storage Summit has some interesting speakers discussing the use of flash drives in the healthcare and media sectors. My two cents: flash storage will become another storage tier in the enterprise for apps that need blazingly fast response times, but for everything else, the price of disk continues to drop way faster than flash storage is dropping and will not replace primary disk storage any time soon.

Question of the week

Will SSDs replace disk, as disk replaced tape?

Tintri gets $25M to tune flash storage for VMs

A Mountain View, Calif., storage startup called Tintri has raised $25 million for its virtualization-focused flash storage appliances. The appliances, called VMstore, mix hard-disk and solid-state drives and promise better storage performance than traditional systems for virtualized applications.
We wrote about Tintri last summer as the storage system behind gaming startup Digital Chocolate. Essentially, each appliance contains up to 13.5TB of usable capacity and boosts performance of virtualized environments because the storage software is designed from the ground up for virtualization. The idea is that it’s easier for storage administrators because they can track performance at the virtual-machine level — just like with their virtualization-management software — rather than by trying to negotiate the traverse between VMs on one side and LUNs, files and other traditional storage-system divisions on the other side.
Flash storage is becoming increasingly appealing appealing for virtualized applications such as databases that need higher throughput than hard disks can comfortably handle. Rather than providing brute performance with an all-flash array, though, Tintri claims its specialized software lets it make maximum use of a relatively small flash tier (only 2.4TB of raw capacity on its high-end appliance compared with 24TB of hard disk capacity) while still keeping prices low.
Tintri has raised $60 million thus far. Menlo Ventures led this round and was joined by existing investors NEA and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

EMC goes all-flash, buys XtremIO for $430M

EMC has bought Israeli flash-storage startup XtremIO for $430 million, according to Israeli news site Globes. The acquisition was expected after rumors began swirling in late April that EMC was courting the company, which sells a storage composed entirely of flash.