By Dave Simpson
– Violin Memory this week began shipments of a RAID array based entirely on single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash memory. What's surprising is that the 3200 Memory Array is priced on par with some RAID arrays based on traditional hard disk drives (HDDs).
For example, a 2.5TB Memory Array is priced at $75,000, or $30 per GB, and a 10TB configuration is priced at $20 per GB. Those prices are in the same range of some HDD-based RAID arrays configured with high-performance 1,500rpm Fibre Channel HDDs.
According to Matt Barletta, Violin Memory's vice president of product marketing, the relatively low cost of the company's arrays is due to a more efficient aggregation of flash memory compared to other solid-state disk (SSD) implementations, as well as the company's sourcing arrangement with NAND flash supplier Toshiba, which is one of the investors in Violin. (The arrays can also be configured with NAND flash from other suppliers.)
"We don't use brute force provisioning in our arrays like other SSD implementations do," says Barletta. "And compared to RAID-1 arrays that might have a 50% efficiency, we run at 80% efficiency even though the array looks like RAID 5.”
If successful, Violin's SSD arrays could erase end users' main objection to SSDs: high cost.
In an InfoStor.com poll earlier this year, 42% of the respondents had no plans to use SSDs, citing high cost as the primary reason. (Another 8% had no plans to use SSDs due to a perceived lack of reliability, 28% said that they planned to deploy SSDs in the first half of 2010, albeit in presumably small quantities, and the remaining 22% plan to deploy SSDs in the second half of 2010.)
Violin's 3U 3200 Memory Array is currently available only with SLC flash memory, but the company plans to offer multi-level cell (MLC) flash versions within the next month or two, which will boost device capacity to 20TB.
The 3200 RAID array can scale from 500GB to 10TB per device, and is available with PCIe, 4Gbps or 8Gbps Fibre Channel, or 1Gbps or 10Gbps Ethernet interfaces.
Violin claims performance of 230,000 I/Os per second (IOPS) on sustained writes with 4KB blocks, and performance of 250,000 IOPS per device with a 60/40 read/write ratio.
Barletta says that a 140TB configuration could achieve more than three million I/Os per second (IOPS).
The company is focusing on applications such as transactional databases, data warehousing, high performance computing (HPC) and virtual server environments.
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