Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

More Flash Madness: Violin Memory Is Bulking Up Its Team

In June I started using the phrase “flash madness” to describe the fundamental shift taking place inside data centers toward the use of flash memory to speed up servers.

That was around that time of the initial public offering of Fusion-io, the Utah-based start-up that speeds up servers and storage networks. Having opened trading at $25.30 a share on June 9, its first day of trading, its share price has held steady since, and it closed Tuesday at $28.35. It will report quarterly earnings for the first time as a public company on Thursday.

The summer is proving equally interesting for Violin Memory, another company with flash memory based technology that is intended to replace the traditional hard drive based storage arrays that allow enterprise applications like those made by Oracle to run fast. Having raised a $40 million Series C funding round from Toshiba and Juniper Networks at an implied valuation of $440 million in June, the company has been bulking up its staff.

Today Violin will announce that it has named Jonathan Goldick — the former CTO of OnStor, now a unit of chipmaker LSI — as its CTO of Software. Goldick has been knocking around the computing industry for about two decades as an expert on file systems and storage, and his resume includes stints at IBM and Microsoft.

So what does it mean to be CTO of Software at a chip company? Goldick’s job will focus on solving problems related to data management that go beyond the speeding-up that Violin’s technology offers. Once hard drives (which, for all the progress they’ve made in five decades, are still essentially platters of glass; even when spinning at the speed of sound, they are subject to errors and inefficiencies that make them still too slow for the fastest computers) are out of the picture, new problems arise.

“The early adopters, they care about speed because they’re in application hell. But once you get past that, the problem becomes one of data management,” Goldick told me. “Once you make anything 100 times faster or cheaper, you have to revisit how you manage data.”

It’s a big enough problem that Goldick was being heavily recruited by other companies working on bringing flash technology to their own hardware. Goldick wouldn’t name the companies directly, but the hints he dropped suggest he turned down offers from both EMC and Oracle.

Goldick is Violin’s second recent hire. Last month it quietly hired Garry Veale, a former vice president at Hewlett-Packard’s StorageWorks division, as its new managing director for the EMEA region.

There’s a reason that Violin is bulking up its team: The opportunity is potentially huge. Remember, if you will, the December day that Oracle CEO declared that its SPARC T3-4 Supercluster had achieved something of a land speed record of more than 30 million transactions per minute. This was the same speech in which Ellison, in one of his numerous bits of trash-talking, likened HP’s competing product to a turtle. It’s often called “the turtle speech.”

That speech got Violin CEO Don Basile all excited. One of the things that made that Oracle machine so fast was that it was packed with a couple hundred terabytes worth of flash memory. As Basile told me last week: “We loved that speech because they proved us right. It was a big validation for what we want to do.” It also means there’s no end in sight to the flash madness.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work