On January 21, 2013, Violin Memory, a provider of flash memory solutions confirmed its acquisition of GridIron Systems, a provider of flash-enhanced storage network caching solutions. No financial details were disclosed.
Neuralytix believes that this acquisition is very favorable for Violin. Flash storage is a highly contested market. The most notable is Violin’s nemesis, Fusion-IO, which went public last year amidst great fanfare. Many analysts and pundits believe that Violin Memory is preparing itself for an IPO within the next 18 months. Violin’s CEO, had previously been the CEO of Fusion-IO prior to its IPO.
The significance of the Violin-GridIron combination is that the solution sets of both companies are highly complementary. While Violin manufactures primary storage solutions based on NAND flash solid-state storage media that are generally connected directly to servers, GridIron manufactures caching solutions that are integrated into a storage network.
Violin’s flagship solution combines flash memory on PCIe cards inside a rack/blade enclosure and leverages the storage services from Symantec. Neuralytix finds this lack of software innovation troubling as Violin is highly dependent on the success and stability of software that is largely controlled by a third party.
GridIron, on the other
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hand, has developed proprietary software to enable its caching capabilities, making it, in some ways, more valuable than Violin’s intellectual property (IP). GridIron’s solutions have been known to accelerate traditional monolithic storage systems such as EMC’s Symmetrix family to protect existing investment and prolong the useful life of the investment. GridIron’s solutions are not exclusively flash based. GridIron deploys a combination of flash and traditional magnetic media.
While the use of flash memory can certainly accelerate the performance of one or more servers, its integration along the data path will vary with each enterprise. In some cases, directly connected flash-based primary storage will be of most benefit to specific applications. In many other cases, integrating flash memory into the storage network will provide broad based acceleration across an entire network of servers.
Violin/GridIron are not without its competition. Avere Systems have had tremendous success in providing flash based acceleration to network attached storage (NAS). NetApp recently acquired CacheIQ that also provides network flash acceleration. Other notable competitors include Kaminario and SolidFire.
That said, Neuralytix believes the Violin/GridIron combination rounds out Violin’s portfolio of solutions, and leapfrogs those offered by Fusion-IO.
Neuralytix believes that Violin needs to secure further OEM agreements beyond that with HP; Violin also needs to turn up the marketing and PR dial and demonstrate to the market the success that it is enjoying. The recent announcement by Nirvanix, a leader in cloud based storage, that it is using Violin exclusively in its cloud storage cluster will lend caché to Violin position.
Finally, Neuralytix believes that the software engineering that GridIron brings to Violin will enhance Violin’s attractiveness to enterprise users, along with Violin’s diverse solution portfolio.