Forestalling Server Upgrades

Michael Vizard

If the history of computing is defined by moving the I/O bottleneck from processor to network to storage, then we're in an age where the system bottleneck is increasingly moving to memory on the processors. Driving this shift is the advent of memory-intensive virtual machines. As IT organizations move to consolidate servers, they are discovering that the number of virtual machines they can run is limited by the amount of memory available on the physical server. The good news is that a new generation of servers is making more memory available than ever. But for IT organizations that want to forestall a major server upgrade just to support virtual machine software, there is another approach.

Violin Memory has created an appliance that delivers up to 4TB of flash memory to multiple servers. According to Matt Barletta, vice president of product marketing for Violin Memory, this allows IT organizations to consolidate servers without having to upgrade their servers to overcome performance limitations created by a shortage of available memory.

To help gain access to memory at a reasonable cost, Violin Memory just sold a stake in the company to Toshiba, which makes the flash memory chips that the Violin Memory appliance is dependent on. Prior to that alliance, Violin Memory also inked a strategic alliance with Falconstor Software under which the storage vendor will resell its appliances.

Storage vendors such as Falconstor are discovering the merits of an appliance approach to memory, said Barletta, after discovering the performance limitations of solid-state drives (SSDS) that start to manifest themselves over prolonged usage.

Barletta says Violin Memory expects to double the memory capacity of its appliances every nine months or so as flash memory technologies improve, which for many IT organizations could mean that the need to buy a new server could still be years away.

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