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Violin Memory has expanded its strategic alliance with memory chip manufacturer Toshiba to provide faster Flash-based memory cards for data centers.

Under the deal, Mountain View, Calif.-based Violin Memory will team up to deliver a new generation of PCIe Flash memory cards for permanent data storage in enterprise servers. Those cards use Flash memory chips to replace hard disk drives in servers, making storage access faster and more energy-efficient. This replacement cycle is urgent so that corporations can deliver information in real time over the Internet without melting down their data centers with inefficient hardware.

The alliance is a deep one that involves supply chain, manufacturing, distribution, and research and development. Japan’s Toshiba supplies about a third of the world’s NAND Flash memory chips, so it can bring big economies of scale to Violin, which takes the chips and turns them into enterprise storage products with the right software to enable real-time memory access. Violin estimates that its 6,000 Series Flash memory arrays are 53 times faster than disk drives when it comes to latency and 15 times faster at database performance, while using a fifth of the power and a 10th of the space.


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“The PCIe card market is important to Toshiba’s customers,” said Hiroyuki Sato, the vice president of storage products division at Toshiba’s chip arm. “Expanding our strategic relationship with Violin Memory will allow us to bring the valuable Violin enterprise IP to a broad range industry leading solutions in our future product offerings.”

The world is moving toward enterprise transactions that have to take place in a split second. Violin improves that speed at the shared storage level in a server. With the Toshiba deal, Violin will have more visibility into the process of making Flash chips and getting them to the market. Violin will then be able to guarantee a steady supply of products for its customers. It can also deliver its Velocity PCIe card family for a lower cost.

Jim Handy, an analyst at Objective Analysis, said that the more deeply Toshiba is involved with Violin Memory, the less trouble it will be for Violin when the next Flash memory shortage arrives. Toshiba also has good sales channels to sell Violin’s products.

“PCIe is where we think most growth will be for enterprise (flash memory chips) over the next five years,” Handy said.

“From smartphone and tablet, to server and the core of the enterprise data center and the cloud, the mobile world drives the need for memory-based architectures,” said Hiroyuki Sato of Toshiba.

Violin Memory’s newest 6,000 Series Flash memory arrays can process a million input-output operations in a second. Compared to last year, it can do that for 97 percent less rack space and 90 percent less energy.

“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,” said Don Basile, chief executive of Violin Memory. “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. The combined product portfolios continue leadership across the evolving memory-based solution market.”

Violin Memory was founded in 2005 and it has 450 employees, more than double over the last 18 months. Its 300 customers include companies in telecommunications, banking, retail, government and healthcare businesses. To date, Violin Memory has raised $236 million from investors including SAP Ventures, Toshiba, Juniper Networks, GE Asset Management and others.

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