Nimbus Wants to Upset Enterprise Storage Market with Flash Storage

By Steve Wexler  |  Print this article Print

The Nimbus S-class storage system features up to 504 NAND flash blades, HALO OS for provisioning, data protection and simplified management, 95 percent lower energy costs, 24 times greater IO performance, and on-demand scalability to 100TB.

Nimbus Data Systems (www.nimbusdata.com) has unveiled its vision—Sustainable Storage—and architecture—S-class—for enterprise network storage that is believed to be the first all-solid-state-drive-based (SSD) solution for the same price as enterprise-class hard disks. The price/performance claims are impressive, but analysts caution that the claims remain to be substantiated in the real world.

"This is clearly a stand-alone unified system that seems tremendously compelling," says Taneja Group’s Jeff Boles, senior analyst of director of validation services. "On paper they have a much more compelling solution than anything else out in the market."

Mark Peters, senior analyst at the Enterprise Storage Group, agrees with both points. "Everyone—Nimbus included—knows that real-world results will be the clincher, but immediate product availability means we are close to getting those, and if the S-class results are even close to its promises, then this product is going to garner a great deal of favorable attention."

With solutions starting under $25,000, the S-class features industry-standard 10 GbE and GbE connectivity; unified iSCSI, NFS and CIFS support; up to 504 redundant NAND flash blades; and Nimbus' HALO storage operating system. The S-class offers 95 percent lower energy costs, 24 times greater IO performance and on-demand scalability to 100TB of solid-state storage.

Nimbus CEO and founder Tom Isakovich tells Channel Insider that his company wanted to move the storage industry forward by developing the first enterprise-storage solution with enterprise-class features and functions based entirely on flash, for the same price as disk. He calls disk the root of the storage performance problem.

"At the end of day, the hard drive remains substantially slower and more power-hungry than any other element in storage." Without improvements, you can't deliver better performance, he adds.

The performance numbers appear impressive, agree the analysts. Nimbus says its systems consume 95percent less power than traditional disk-based arrays, delivering 6,000 IOps per watt and up to 675,000 IOps per floor tile.

For example, one S-class shelf would consume 80 W and 2U of rackspace and deliver uncached IO performance comparable to 2,080 15K-rpm drives that would require eight full data center racks and 37,000 W of power. Throw in integrated inline deduplication and compression, S-class systems further reduce the storage footprint of virtual machines by up to 10 to 1, achieving capacity density up to 25TB per U of rackspace, an eight times improvement over typical 15K-rpm drive arrays, states the company.

The S-class delivers up to 1.35M uncached IOps and 41G bps of throughput performance for the target markets, says Isakovich. The prospective customers include traditional midsize enterprises working with virtualization packages and SMEs working with intensive database applications. He says they are also seeing interest from the high-performance computing community because of the price/performance.

Isakovich says reliability and serviceability were key design objectives if Nimbus wanted to supplant hard disks. So the systems feature all the bells and whistles of traditional storage, including enterprise-grade NAND with 28 percent overprovisioning, write amplification, and wear-leveling technology to spread workloads.

Each flash blade is enhanced by RAID 6 technology across the blades, protecting data even in the event of two simultaneous failures while also providing live spares that automatically rebuild blades in a fraction of the time of traditional hard drive rebuilds, states the company. Redundant network controllers, dual processors, mirrored system memory, redundant power supplies and fans, and dual operating system images ensure maximum availability. The auto-negotiating quad network ports enable users to migrate from Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to 10 GbE without any downtime.

Nimbus is in the process of recruiting channel partners. Isakovich says they're looking for companies that specialize in storage, virtualization or databases. He recognizes that the company must validate the claims they're making.

"We need to have current deployments of the product and turn them into case studies." There are three pilot customers, including the company's biggest client, the Department of Defense.

"Once we have that, then I think the right kind of channel partners will come and find us."