Violin has a fantastic proposition for customers - it's highly performant, no one disputes the transition toward Flash Memory, it arrives at the intersection of all sorts of new technologies needing power that can't be delivered by disk. So what on Earth is going wrong ?
At a distance I would note that WW sales reports to the COO. I'd start right here. There should always be a clear seperation of responsibility between the role of COO and Sales - these are different functions by design. The check and balance between what is being spent and what business is being earnt should never sit with the same person. Poacher and Game Keeper. The COO in Violin has the spend tap turned to full
I would consider next if the WW sales GTM and stated goals make sense. In a business this small, why is hiring 100 x direct sales people a goal to aspire toward ? The recruiter fees alone must be immense. Surely a better investment of headcount would be to balance End User sales with sales through Partner. With < 500 people, no install base and a very short window to get to scale the answer must be partner. Everyone else starts this way. It should be no suprise to anyone that the rate of customer aquisition is what it is - winning a net new customer for a new salesman in a new company like Violin takes time and it's an extremely expensive sales model to sustain. Far better to set up and work through a partner salesforce at scale with a proposition that works for them, than struggle to control margin on the handfull of deals you can transact directly
The final thing is the sheer cost being sunk in Direct Sales. Why ? These boxes are shipping at commodity prices and yet being sold by old world storage folks commanding top dollar sales compensation. Across the board, the people Violin are hiring in look to be costing too much in salary, guarantees and expenses relative to results. The COO needs to get a grip. Top Gun was big in the 1980's. Just like the Violin Sales model