All-Flash solutions ready for commercial value?

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At Storage Field Day 1, the main theme was Solid State Storage. Last week I talked about Kaminario whom their best value proposition for me is the fact that they have an open architecture that can scale on any hardware platform. Another vendor I’d like to talk about is NimbusData. They were at the Solid State Storage Symposium and also in one of the dedicated vendor slots at Tech Field Day.

What is the value proposition of Nimbus Data? Making All-Flash solutions affordable without having to use deduplication. The last part seems a bit odd if you read it the first time but it has some value. There are 2 types of all-flash vendors out there: the ones that don’t talk about $/TB (only $/IOPs) or the ones that tell you they are cheaper than disks because they have a huge deduplication ratio hence don’t need volume (many SSDs). NimbusData pretends to be the 3rd kind that shows numbers.
Today NimbusData released a real life use-case at Mitsubishi Power Systems. The challenge here was replacing an existing disk-based solution. The applications (SAP/SQL) on top of the current array were stressing the entire system so much that it took 4 to 5 hours to do the nightly database loads and backup windows got missed. In the end the users tend to get frustrated on the overall SAP performance (how recognizable!).

With the S-Class solution, NimbusData was able to reduce the backup windows to complete within 20 minutes and the nightly database loads completed in less than 60-90 minutes. A very important sidenote: this is done on the same backend Storage Network. As the NimbusData solution is multi-protocol (SMB / NFS / iSCSI / FC / IB) they could easily integrate in the existing 4GB FC network, allowing the customer to upgrade the network design at a later point in time.

Throwing hardware against the problem is the easiest part. Paying for that hardware is another thing. NimbusData delivers all-flash at a price-point of $10k/TB (listprice). If I look at solutions I know we tend to see between $7.5k/TB for 15k disk solutions and $15k/TB for all-flash. I talked offline to the NimbusData sales people what happens in a real deal if a customer would go for an offer with a certified VAR (Value Added Reseller). At that point this even gets more interesting for the customer. You’ll understand why I can not elaborate on that in public.

So how do they make it so cheap? They make their own flash drives with flash components from different suppliers! Below you see a picture of the 1TB raw EMLC disk (800GB netto) we got to see at Storage Field day 1. NimbusData claims that the SSD producers and vendors take way to much margin on their products keeping the prices artificially high. The fact that they are able to scale out with different disk/node sizes within the same storage pool is also something I like a lot (up to 100TB for S-Class, 500TB for E-Class)

In this video you see NimbusData CEO Tom Isakovich elaborates on other performance capabilities tested by Demartek.

My TakeAways:

  • As stated in the video I too believe that TIER1 disks (15k) will be replaced by SSDs pretty soon. The advantage of non-spinning hardware for high performance solutions is the way to go. But It will take us another year before more vendors drop prices on SSD.
  • We have a good, efficient and affordable solution for our high end applications. What about the lower tiers? I get the point NimbusData makes but we’ll still need multiple storage solutions to manage in our environment.

NimbusData Corporate Website: LINK
NimbusData scaleout – S-Class: LINK
NimbusData scaleup – E-Class: LINK
Arjan Timmeman’s (@ArjanTim) view on NimbusData: LINK

disclaimer: all transportation, catering and stay on TechFieldDay was taken care off by the sponsors you can find here through the organization of GestaltIT

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