Violin kicks out founding CEO

Story at The Register. Usually you give a CEO some time to right a listing ship. I pointed out in a recent post that there are some significant grumblings about Violin and in fact about most of the flash-as-rack-appliance space.

I had noted

What?s interesting to me is that I had a conversation with a large potential customer recently, where we ran into ?how are you different from and better than Violin?. I?ll argue that this is a softball question for us ? the difference between an array vendor and a tightly-coupled computing and storage appliance maker is huge, and easy to articulate. The customer got it, but also asked about features that Violin lacked, and are mentioned in the article that are actually not terribly useful in a flash context for performance (which is where you want to deploy flash).

We’ve run into them a few times in competitive situations, so take what I write about them with an appropriate mass of NaCl.

All the pure-play flash array vendors have to answer a basic question about their existence. That question is “why”. Yeah, you can argue that some may be usable as primary storage, but that would be hideously expensive primary storage. Only pure RAM would be more costly as primary storage.

They may argue for caching (and many are working on some sort of deconstructed server interface) … use them as a gateway or a plugin to main slow storage.

They may argue for a federated storage model, where you direct applications to use their SAN/NAS interface to access the fast storage on a particular path/mount point/namespace.

But this misses most of the points of enhancing performance.

Best performance comes from a tight coupling of the computing gear with the storage and networking. We’ve demonstrated this, again, and again. We’ve beat these traditional design systems again, and again, using designs that, at first blush, don’t seem like they should be able to win benchmarks, yet consistently, they outperform the competition.

This is why the question of “why” is so important. What, exactly, justifies their billion dollar valuations, their $150M raises? Yeah, its heretical to challenge such things. But these valuations will always be tested by actual business performance after IPO. Which Violin’s was. And the results are not pretty.

We’ve taken a completely different approach and built a real business from scratch. We’re in no danger of an IPO any time soon, but I can say now, for the 5th year in a row, we’ve blown out our numbers and had record growth over the previous year, with no external investment to date.

If you don’t start with a viable business, you will have to have a day of reckoning when you are required to at some point. That reckoning will exact its pound of flesh. Fixing that business and making it viable, will be non-trivial. This is true of IPOed companies, as well as companies with dreams of massive IPOs or buyouts and huge valuations.

So Violin made a change. Quite a number of other folks in this space will need to as well.

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