Violin, Microsoft team up to build all-flash NAS array

The network-attached storage array will support virtual and cloud environments

Solid-state array maker Violin Memory and Microsoft have built an all-flash network-attached storage (NAS) array that boasts 5GB/sec sequential read rates and up to 32TB of capacity.

It is Violin's first foray into the file-server market. The company is best known for its high performance, all-flash block storage systems.

The new 3U (5.25-in. high) NAS box is filled with solid-state drives and runs Windows Server 2012, which offers functionality such as data snapshots, replication and deduplication.

The two companies, which are calling the product "Cluster-in-a-Box," will be demonstrating the array at the TechEd Conference this week. Microsoft Windows server 2012 is expected to be generally available in the fourth quarter of the year; Violin expects to begin selling its NAS array shortly thereafter.

Violin's Cluster-in-a-Box, all-flash NAS array.

Narayan Venkat, Violin's vice president of product management, said the two companies have worked together over the past nine months to develop the array. Venkat said he sees the array being used as primary storage for HyperV virtual server environments or for running HyperV directly from the box as a converged application server and storage array. For example, Venkat said the NAS server could support large virtual desktop infrastructures.

"We see it being used for scale file services in Windows environments and for larger cloud deployments where the customer wants to deploy a handful of applications on a very fast tier of storage based on Microsoft HyperV," he said.

The "Cluster-in-a-Box" is based on Violin's 6616 all-flash array, which scales from 6TB to 32TB of capacity and can use either single-level cell (SLC) or multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash. The difference between Violin's typical 6616 and the Cluster-in-a-Box is two additional Intel x86 processors, which were added to run Microsoft Server 2012.

"This is the first case of our box being used as a platform where we're putting code on an x86 data plane, but we'll be doing this with other applications in the future," Venkat said.

Venkat said the NAS server can sustain "hundreds of thousands, if not a half a million" I/Os per second. The array is fully redundant for high-availability environments.

The NAS box will be priced from $6 to $9 per gigabyte of capacity, according to Matt Viletta, Violin's vice president of marketing. "We're very competitive with high-end NAS systems," Viletta said. "It's not an expensive system when you understand the economics of what you're getting."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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