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Violin Gives Microsoft's Windows Server 2012 R2 More Flash

One of the many notable improvements IT pros will find in Windows Server 2012 R2 is its improved support for flash-based solid state drives (SSDs). The new server OS, released last week, now offers automated storage tiering, which improves performance when using flash-based SSDs in servers and storage arrays.

Windows Server 2012 R2 analyzes requests for disk IO in real time and allocates the most frequently accessed blocks of data to the significantly faster SSDs, while moving blocks of data not recently accessed to traditional mechanical hard disk drives (HDDs). That approach should appeal to the growing number of shops that have added flash to their servers and storage arrays.

But for those looking to run massive scale-out type datacenters and clouds, Violin Memory last week said it has worked with Microsoft to optimize the performance of its flash arrays running with the new Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2. Violin Memory said the two companies started working together 18 months ago to develop arrays that can extend the performance and provide lower latency when the new server OS is used with applications, including SQL Server, SharePoint and Exchange, by taking advantage of the improvements to Hyper-V and Server Message Block (SMB) file services in the new Windows Server 2012 R2.

The new arrays, which will ship in January for a yet-to-be-disclosed price, can perform at more than one million I/Os per second (IOPS) and scale from 8 TB to 64 TB of memory, with sub-second failover and I/O latency measured in milliseconds.

Microsoft optimized the kernel of Windows Server 2012 R2 to run at these memory speeds in collaboration with Violin over the last 18 months, said Narayan Venkat, the company's VP of products. "As a result, the solution offers SMB 3.0 direct support enabling a Windows-to-Windows communication environment for management integration with System Center and other management simplification on top of the world class file access performance for both SMB and NFS," Venkat said.

Violin is far from the only company targeting flash-based SSDs for the datacenter. Among them are Fusion-io, Intel (which in June upgraded its enterprise flash SSD offerings), LSI, SanDisk's FlashSoft and Stec (acquired in September by Western Digital) as well as key storage and systems vendors Dell, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM (which earlier this year said it will invest $1 billion investment in enterprise flash storage) and Cisco, which last month said it was acquiring Whiptail for $415 million.

A number of startups are offering enterprise flash storage including Kaminario, Nimbus Data Systems, SolidFire and Pure Storage, which in late August said it raised $150 million, valuing the company at $1 billion and putting it on track for a possible initial public offering. Meanwhile Violin's closely watched IPO a few weeks ago has gotten off to a rough start. The company offered its shares at $9 raising $147 million, though as of Friday closed at $7.25.

Do you see yourself taking advantage of Windows Server 2012 R2's flash storage support?

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 10/21/2013 at 1:02 PM


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