Remember this sad story from StorageMojo:

They haven’t reported financials for almost 3 quarters. Their stock is trading at about 20% of its peak. They fired their CEO. . . . And NetApp was trying to strangle [them] (see NetApp filers for $1/GB?) in its crib.

Are they goners?

I don’t think so.

Was I foolishly optimistic? Maybe. And yet Isilon managed to hang on and succeed.

Why the history?
I tweeted Friday that

Violin Memory gets new CMO from EMC. Good move: why buy new XtremIO when mature flash offered?

This got a couple of responses, first from @ahl or Adam Leventhal, formerly of the ZFS team:

@StorageMojo do you really think that Violin can turn it around? Would you advise a customer to buy Violin over XtremIO?

And later from @StoragePro, who works for NetApp.

@StorageMojo Violin let go 20% of their people. That is the kiss of death.

Can Violin turn it around?
I think so. Look at their assets:

  • Revenue. Over $100m. That means customers who like the product.
  • Technology. The Violin architecture is unique – see StorageMojo’s Video White Paper – and, AFAIK, still offers the lowest and most predictable latency of any flash array.
  • Financial strength. Violin has over $130m in the bank and some strong backers such as Toshiba. Laying people off is painful, but that’s how you stretch the runway.
  • New management. The new team must have been promised investor support or they wouldn’t have signed on.

Second question
Would I recommend Violin over XtremeIO? Of course!

Why? Because a storage product that’s been out for 5 years is inherently more mature and stable than one that’s been out for a few months.

I’ve been through plenty of beta programs and try as they might they never catch most of the bugs. Only customers can do that, so more customers and more runtime equals more found and fixed bugs.

Violin’s 1st gen product was bare-bones, but it worked and got them lots of customer feedback. The 2nd gen 6000 series incorporated that feedback and has been much more successful.

The big knock on Violin has not been hardware but software. I’ve heard that they’ve been working on that and their new Maestro Suite is part of the software offensive. Expect to see more.

The StorageMojo take
Few companies get as far along as Violin Memory has. But Isilon’s problems were worse and they survived and prospered. But it wasn’t easy, especially with the big guys spreading FUD.

VMEM’s new team has its work cut out for them, but turning the company around is not an impossible dream. Stop the bleeding. Focus on sales and support. Show progress and profitability.

And then all this will be forgotten in 5 years.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. I’ve done work for Violin and I’ve liked the technology since the original team briefed me on it years ago. In fact, I bought some stock a while ago because of the analysis I’ve laid out here – but you’re welcome to believe I’m a supporter now because I bought them, but I’m not the only one who thinks they’re undervalued. And no, sadly, I didn’t buy Isilon back then.