Violin Memory and Microsoft develop and avail all-flash array solution

WFAViolin Memory has teamed up with Microsoft to develop and avail Windows Flash Array (WFA), the first all-flash high-performance storage array powered by Windows Storage Server 2012 R2. WFA is a tightly integrated combination of Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 and Violin’s award-winning hardware and software into a single solution that delivers high performance all-flash array storage for enterprise and cloud customers.

The solution is claimed to transform the datacentre by dramatically reducing server overhead and application response times through improved storage performance, fundamentally altering the cost structure of enterprise applications. It enables enterprise and cloud workloads, such as SQL Server, Microsoft SharePoint and Windows Server with Hyper-V virtualised applications, to meet the needs of global enterprises, while satisfying IT operational demands for maximised agility, automation, and orchestration between network, storage and compute resources.

“Microsoft technologies, such as Windows Server, SQL Server, and Microsoft SharePoint, are already adopted by enterprises worldwide and growing dramatically,” said Bill Laing, Corporate Vice- President of Microsoft. “By jointly developing this highly integrated solution with Violin Memory, we are working together to provide enterprise and cloud customers with dramatically improved performance, scalability, and economics for their Windows applications – virtualised, physical, and cloud.”

Customers benefit from the proven storage features of Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 embedded into WFA, including thin provisioning, data deduplication, scalability, and encryption along with space efficient snapshots and continuous availability, through Windows failover clustering.

“The WFA solution with Microsoft’s vast suite of server applications is critical for enterprises trying to revolutionise the performance, scale, and cost of data center and cloud deployments,” said Kevin DeNuccio, CEO of Violin Memory. “This collaboration with Microsoft produces the necessary integration of compute, network, applications, and storage for customers designing the next generation of cloud and virtualised solutions.”

Microsoft has significantly improved the efficiency and feature set of Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 but, most importantly, it provides a new way to connect external storage and make it perform like fast local storage. The Server Message Block (SMB) Direct protocol enabled by remote direct memory access (RDMA) makes possible a compelling enterprise-class storage alternative to traditional SANs. Testing by Microsoft reveals that SMB Direct can reduce CPU overhead by up to 30 percent, while delivering higher performance storage that is less expensive, and easier to administer through native Windows Server management tools.

SQL Server is an enterprise-class database that enables customers to build mission-critical applications across OLTP, data warehousing, business intelligence and analytics workloads. These enterprise applications are essential workloads that benefit from the WFA. Customers beta testing the Windows Flash Array with 2012 SQL Server report that the WFA delivers up to 2X the write performance and up to 50 percent higher read performance, compared to an industry standard all-flash array connected via Fibre Channel.

Windows Server with Hyper-V is one of the leading virtualisation platforms helping customers achieve a higher utilisation and ROI from their server assets. The high level of random I/O requests from virtualized workloads make the WFA a natural fit. In Hyper-V environments, WFA achieved up to 40% higher write performance in customer beta tests. Increased storage performance means enterprises can increase host server virtual machine density, bolstering their virtualisation ROI and reducing CAPEX.

The net effect for customers is a significant reduction in compute and storage expense, while meeting the most demanding application SLAs with orders of magnitude improvement in response times. WFA is the first end-to-end continuously available, high performance All-Flash Windows Storage Server Array for the enterprise market.

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