Storage Soup

Jun 16 2010   1:55PM GMT

Gear6 caches out; Violin Memory scoops up assets

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Flash memory appliance vendor Violin Memory today said it acquired the assets of failed caching startup Gear6 for an undisclosed price, and plans to add Gear6’s NAS and Memcached software to Violin arrays.

Gear6 sold its NAS product on large appliances – the smallest was an 11u device that cost $150,000 when it launched two years ago, and larger systems cost more than twice as much. Violin’s 3u arrays range from $30,000 for 700 GB to $200,000 for 10 TB of single-level cell (SLC) solid state capacity.

Violin Memory CEO Don Basile said Gear6 and Violin both set out to eliminate I/O bottlenecks in the data center.

“Instead of using a Gear6-type appliance, we’ll bring the software of both solutions on top of Violin devices,” he said.

Basile said the NAS caching product is the more interesting of the two Gear6 offerings, adding “we need a little more study on Memcached,” a web caching product based on open source software.

“The NFS piece aligns with Violin’s mission and its vision for the data center evolution,” he said. “Violin’s array is far denser and far faster than what Gear6 was able to do. We’ll take expensive complicated hardware from Gear6 and make it more scalable. We can extend our footprint by offering NFS caching in front of NAS devices, and solve performance problems without people needing to replace their NAS infrastructure.”

Violin last month launched the Violin 3200 SSD with plans to eventually scale it to 100 TB. The 3200 holds 84 128 GB SLC memory modules for 10 TB of total capacity, and can have up to 500 GB of RAM cache.

Gear6 filed to liquidate its assets earlier this year after burning through $24 million in venture funding and failing to get more. Basile said Violin bought its technology and patents, and will hire some Gear6 engineers. Violin identified at least 30 Gear6 customers, and Basile suspects there could be as many as 60. He said Violin is “sorting through contracts” to determine its support obligation. He says some of those Gear6 customers are also using Violin products.

Analyst Greg Schulz of StorageIO says Gear6 likely aimed too high with its products and ignored the mainstream NAS market.

“Gear6 was trying to create a market, but I think they focused on higher-end customers as opposed to making it more viable for general purpose NAS,” he said. “They were also going after read-intensive NFS-type environments that may be looking to use deduplication as opposed to an accelerator.”

Schulz says the Gear6 technology will expand the Violin offering.

“They’re adding additional personality to their solid state system,” he said. ‘The real secret to Gear6 was its caching algorithm and its ability to support files. Now Violin has a NAS solution.”

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