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Violin Cuts a Real Sweetheart Deal with Toshiba

The widgets, called Velocity, are good for four capacities between 1.37TB and 11TB

Toshiba, the big NAND Flash memory chip maker, and Violin Memory, a maker of arrays using those chips, started cuddling deeper under the bedclothes Monday because of an expanded strategic alliance that's supposed to give Violin full visibility and control of the supply chain, manufacturing, distribution and R&D efforts at the foundry, chip and software layers.

The deal, which probably would never have been cut if Toshiba wasn't invested in Violin and which is supposed to presage mass adoption of Flash, also involves new faster Flash-based PCIe memory cards from Violin that replace more energy-demanding hard disk drives for permanent storage in data center servers.

The widgets, called Velocity, are good for four capacities between 1.37TB and 11TB at prices ranging from $3-$6 a gigabyte. They're also bootable and - because of less cooling air flow - more of them can be stuffed into a server than other Flash memory cards.

Soon such cards are supposed to be the fastest-growing enterprise memopry segment and Violin's entry will pose a hazard for Virident, LSI and Fusion-io (whose former CEO was Violin's current CEO Don Basile).

Violin's widgets are supposed to have a two-to-four-times price/performance advantage over Fusion-io and Virident.

The cards use a lightweight driver so expensive host CPU and DRAM resources aren't required and application performance isn't compromised.

Because of its new agreement with Toshiba, Violin should be able to guarantee customers a steady supply of product - despite tsunamis - and deliver its new third-generation Velocity PCIe cards cheaper than other people.

Violin figures the deal immediately streamlines the supply chain because it won't have to work through "multiple layers of aggregation and margin ‘add-on' before the final product reaches a customer." Apparently EMC can't say the same thing.

Violin, which is closing in on an IPO reportedly in early May, sees a pretty future as the "de facto choice for an all-silicon data center" as the world moves to a transaction-oriented ecosystem that needs split-second results. It's confident its 1.37TB card with its price/performance density will start broad industry adoption.

Toshiba, which has decent channels and already resells Violin's arrays, gets licensing and distribution rights to the new Violin IP. It's supposed to create its own PCIe cards using Violin's knowhow. It will also negotiate for Violin with server makers.

"The PCIe card market is important to Toshiba's customers," Hiroyuki Sato, the vice-president of the Storage Products Division at Toshiba's chip arm, said in a statement "Expanding our strategic relationship with Violin Memory will allow us to bring the valuable Violin enterprise IP to a broad range of industry-leading solutions in our future product offerings."

Basile said, "Our new focus on PCIe cards will allow both companies to drive radical new economics that lead to the mass adoption of memory-based architectures. NAND memory is now a requirement at every level from the smart connected device to the core of the cloud and the enterprise data center."

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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