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The Concerto 2200 data reduction appliance supports Network File System (NFS), and Violin executives said they plan to add inline deduplication and compression for block storage in the first quarter of 2015. The block functionality will not require a separate appliance, according to Erik Ottem, Violin's director of product marketing.
Many all-flash array vendors bundle inline deduplication and compression technology into their all-flash arrays, but the performance hit from inline dedupe/compression can be fairly significant, according to Tom Coughlin, president of Coughlin Associates, a data storage consultancy in Atascadero, Calif.
"A separate appliance for inline deduplication and compression reduces the additional overhead of these operations running on the storage array," Coughlin said.
Eric Herzog, Violin's chief marketing officer and senior vice president of business development, said vendors either have to "amp up the power in the CPU processors" to handle the deduplication or add two extra boxes, as Violin chose to do. He said Violin found the appliance approach much simpler than a new hardware design.
"We may do it at a future date, but right now, we didn't," Herzog said. "From a cost perspective, it's a wash because you either use separate appliances that are lower power, or you've got to buy much more powerful appliances. The cost to the end user is almost identical."
Violin's inline dedupe/compression approach gives customers a granular level of control to turn data reduction on or off based on workloads. Herzog said, "Many of the existing products out there dedupe the entire box. We do not dedupe the entire box unless you would like to. We believe the user should pick."
The Concerto 2200 appliance provides a dashboard to enable customers to check the data reduction rates to help with decision-making. Violin said its Concerto 2200 consists of two high availability appliances that deduplicate and compress shares, share groups or files from NFS and write the data to LUNs on its 6000 or 7000 series all-flash arrays. The LUNs can be on a single array or scaled across up to four arrays.
Data reduction can vary based on workload, but at a 6:1 ratio, the Concerto 2200 can supply 672 terabytes of usable storage in a 13 rack unit configuration consisting of Violin 6000 and 7000 flash arrays, according to Violin. The company claims the setup could handle a VDI deployment of 2,500 persistent desktops at a street cost of about $1.81 per GB or $75 per desktop.
The list price for the Concerto 2200 is $160,000 per appliance, including hardware and software. Several all-flash array vendors charge a separate fee for inline deduplication and/or compression, but others provide the functionality with the array at no extra charge.
"Dedupe and compression are really important features for all-flash arrays because they cut the effective purchase cost of the box," said Tim Stammers, a senior analyst at New York-based 451 Research. "And dedupe and compression are very common on other all-flash arrays. This was a competitive weakness for Violin they're now beginning to fill … They're making the right moves. Finally they're getting around to adding software features they've needed to be competitive."
In June, Violin launched its Concerto 7000 All Flash Array line and Concerto software suite that added the option for data services such as synchronous and remote asynchronous replication, stretch metro cluster capabilities and advanced data protection.
Eric Burgener, a research director in storage at Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp., said inline deduplication and compression will be a "baseline requirement" for all-flash arrays to move from single application environments, such as a database or virtual desktop infrastructure, to the mixed workloads that HDD-based enterprise storage arrays handle today.
Burgener said Violin has customers running mixed workloads today and the introduction of inline dedupe/compression will enable them to move farther down the path. "The more dense mixed workloads you can put on these systems, the better total cost of ownership you get out of them. Ultimately, that's going to be the economic reason that will lead them to replace HDD and even hybrid flash array vendors five to seven years down the line."
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