Home Business IT Hardware Nimble goes big with CS700 adaptive flash array

Nimble Storage's new CS700 storage array scales out to petabyte capacity and up to half a million IOPS.

According to Nimble Storage's director of marketing and technology Gavin Cohen, the company's CS-Series storage arrays provide a balance of performance, capacity and price that addresses the needs of all but the most demanding applications.

Nimble isn't trying to compete with in-server storage such as the recently announced Fusion-io Atomic cards, but when it comes to storage arrays Mr Cohen said the mix of flash and disk storage in a CS-Series array can be configured to take on either the relatively expensive 'all flash' arrays (eg, those from Pure Storage) or the hybrid arrays from companies such as EMC and NetApp for bulk storage at more affordable prices.

Nimble can compete with "the best of the best" on the basis of performance and cost, but also with capacity-optimised arrays such as EMC's VNX range, he said.

This is achieved through two technologies, Mr Cohen told iTWire. One is CASL (Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout), a file system that is optimised for flash and disk and that obtains excellent performance in part by caching writes so that the data can be transferred to the storage device in a sequential stream.

The other is InfoSight, Nimble's cloud-based analytics system that among other things can make recommendations about the way a small change in configuration (perhaps as minor as the installation of just one more SSD) will improve system performance, based on the current workload of that particular array and the distilled experience of every CS-Series array in the world. 35 million data points are collected each day from every array.

This 'adaptive flash' approach means customers can achieve an "all flash experience" with as little as 2% flash storage in the array for applications such as Exchange, rising to 10% for more demanding workloads such as SQL Server or VDI implementations, Mr Cohen said.

On a benchmark that measures the number of Exchange mailboxes that a storage array can support, Nimble dramatically outperforms better-known vendors such as EMC, NetApp and IBM.

Statistics collected by InfoSight mean the company can claim an actual, measured 99.999% uptime across the entire installed base, rather than quoting a theoretical number based on failure rates of individual components. "There is no other vendor that can make that claim and validate it," said Mr Cohen.

Page 2: Nimble's new CS700 array

InfoSight also helps Nimble achieve a high level of customer service by automatically detecting more than 90% issues as they arise, before the customer has noticed, and in around 80% of cases the issues are automatically rectified.

The new CS700 array joins the existing CS200 and CS400 arrays, providing up to 125,000 IOPS from 12 7200RPM hard drives and four SSDs. It also features triple parity RAID, allowing up to three drives to fail before data is lost.

The associated All-Flash Shelf holds up to 12.8TB using current SSDs, and can be used with any of the CS-Series arrays for a maximum of 16TB of flash per mode. It is used as a read cache, so there is no need for a RAID configuration as any data can be reloaded from disk if necessary.

CS200 and CS400 arrays can be upgraded in place to the CS700, so it is possible to start with a CS200 configured with as little as 4TB of storage, and scale up and out to a four-node CS700 cluster with a petabyte of storage and up to 500,000 IOPS.

Mr Cohen suggested the low-end array might be suitable for a small school or a retailer - Nimble products are easy to manage and operate, he observed.

Nimble APJ vice president Peter O'Connor said the local focus was mostly on customers running Microsoft, VMware or Citrix software on their own systems, but the arrays are also proving attractive to service providers who benefit from Nimble's performance, price, capacity and ease of use. Another benefit is the reduced footprint - some customers report they need as little as one-tenth of the rack space required by older systems.

Other vendors are trying hard to dissuade their customers from purchasing Nimble arrays, Mr O'Connor said, claiming that in one case a potential customer was offered a free array by the incumbent vendor.

Around 6000 Nimble arrays are already installed in 25 countries, and the company is adding more than 500 new customers per quarter, he said.

The CS700 and the All-Flash Shelf will ship this month.


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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.


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