Dr Don Basile, the former head of Fusion-io, has been secretly working as the CEO for Violin Memory since April this year, it has emerged. Various ex-Fusion-io people have followed him there.
Both Fusion-io and Violin Memory make flash memory products for servers. The Violin 1010 Memory Appliance product is a PCIe or network-connected solid state drive (SSD) using DRAM and single level cell (SLC) flash memory that currently supports up to 4TB of flash and 250,000 I/Os per second (IOPS)in a 2U enclosure. Fusion-io provides a PCIe-connected flash-based ioDrive. It augments a hard drive storage array whereas Violin's idea is ultimately to replace the array.
Basile was the CEO and sometime chairman at Fusion-io. He was quietly ousted, or resigned, it was never made clear which, at the end of March, and replaced by David Bradford, whom he had recruited as Fusion's general counsel.
Bradford, like other senior Fusion-io staff, such as co-founder David Flynn, has Utah connections. There has been mention of tension between Silicon Valley and Utah people in Fusion, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City with a Silicon Valley sales office in Alviso.
As a startup CEO at Fusion-io, Basile oversaw the expansion of the company's workforce from 11 to more than 100 people, and raised $79.5m in financing. During his time Fusion concluded agreements with HP, IBM and Dell and acquired 300-plus enterprise customers.
It turns out that Dixon Doll Jnr, who was Fusion-io's senior VP for sales and corporate development under Basile, joined Violin Memory as its chief operating officer at the beginning of September. Fusion-io has consistently refused to answer questions about Doll's status since Bradford took over as CEO. Doll's updated LinkedIn entry reveals he left the Fusion post in February this year.
Matt Barletta, who was Fusion-io's VP for product marketing, left Fusion in March and has rejoined Basile at Violin Memory, becoming his product marketing VP. We understand that other members of Basile's team at Fusion-ion have moved to Violin.
Basile says technology developments mean that Violin's appliance will move from hundreds of thousands to millions of I/Os per second, from single terabytes to tens of terabytes of data capacity, and from single gigabytes per second to ten gigabytes per second bandwidth, when it launches next year. The technology provides sustained read/write I/O performance for both sequential and random I/O. with predictably linear scaling.
Violin says its switched memory architecture enables flash management functions to be distributed across many modules and so help boost IOPS, memory density and lower cost.
The product uses considerably less power than a hard drive array with the same IOPS rating as well. Hopefully Violin says data centres can avoid room expansion by exchanging hard drive arrays for its memory appliances and save on space, power and cooling.
Next year the company anticipates delivering terabyte pricing competitive with the performance of hard disk drive storage at the enterprise class level. Basile expects Violin product pricing in 2010: "will be in single digit thousands per terabyte, single digit dollars per gigabyte". Because of this he expects Violin to change the entire pricing structure for the performance market.
How is this going to be done? Basile says that the product supports DRAM, single-level and also multi-level cell flash, which might be a clue.
Violin says it has used these coming performance advantages to work in conjunction with nearly every major data center infrastructure OEM, in order to "eliminate the last barrier to the adoption of virtualisation in the data centre that will help accelerate the deployment of cloud computing and unified computing architectures".
This last barrier, as Violin terms it, is the storage bottleneck - the price/performance storage networking choke that denies hungry Nehalem servers the I/O channel they need to to keep them fed with data. Violin reckons it has the technology to blow that barrier away.
Basile has set up an Advisory Board for Violin, staffed by 12 or so CIOs from pharmaceutical, technology, government, consumer product, and telecommunications companies and organisations. There are several customer trials of Violin products underway, and customer and partner announcements can be expected over the next three months.
What this means is that there is now real competition for Fusion-io and Texas Memory Systems (TMS) with its RamSan technology. Violin says that the best place for flash is as a performance array networked to servers, not as an internal cache. Only an external array will have the capacity needed to hold all of an application's data and avoid data tiering complexities inherent in a multi-tier SSD and hard drive array.
Basile says he sees Violin's main competition as flash-enhanced drive arrays such as EMC's Symmetrix and Clariion. It seems apparent though that the RamSan is a broadly similar device.
Basile has the bit between his teeth and is intent on Violin making a big splash in the external performance storage market. You might say that, as a result of his Fusion-io experience, he's been fired with enthusiasm. ®