Violin Memory has raised $35 million in a second round of funding for its new breed of flash memory chips for corporate data centers. The company aims to improve storage so that tasks that once took hours can now be done in minutes.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is trying to disrupt the hard disk business via chip-based flash memory, which can handle tasks much faster than hard disks, but traditionally have been too expensive. As the costs come down, flash is getting more competitive. Investors in the round include Toshiba and Juniper Networks, as well as unnamed financial investors.

Hard disks are now the dominant storage devices in the vast arrays in big corporate data centers. But Violin Memory argues that its improvements in both flash memory and input-output systems enable it to achieve cost parity with hard drives. And it argues that its patent-pending technology also offers 10 times better performance.

The technology is now it its third generation of products. The Violin Memory 3200 Flash Memory Array can do a storage task in two hours that once took 12 using hard drive arrays. The Violin 3200 arrays can use thousands of flash memory chips in a single storage system. About 140 terabytes worth of memory can fit in a rack, with performance reaching 3 million input-output operations per second.

Violin launched its first generation of memory arrays in 2009. Each new generation lowers the cost of a system further, making it more cost effective than hard disk drive arrays. Violin Memory uses RAID protected flash memory chips, which means they are reliable enough that they can be used as primary storage for any file and operating system.

As more and more computing moves into the cloud, corporations need more reliable storage. (Imagine, for instance, if Facebook lost all of your photos. You wouldn’t be very happy). That’s why this type of memory solution will become more popular in the future. Toshiba recently invested an undisclosed amount in the company. Violin Memory has raised $110 million since it was founded in 2005.

Executives at both Toshiba and Juniper said that Violin Memory is a leader in high-end chip storage, which will play a bigger and bigger role in offloading storage from servers in cloud computing infrastructure. Don Basile, chief executive of Violin Memory, said the company is looking at a record year in 2011. The company’s customers include AOL, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard. Rivals include Fusion-io, Seagate, and others. Violin Memory has more than 100 employees.

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