Nimbus Data's Gemini all-flash arrays poised to boost capacity limits

Carol Sliwa

One of the early movers in the all-flash array market, Nimbus Data Systems Inc. sells multiprotocol systems that promise high performance and a broad range of enterprise storage features. But the maximum raw capacity was limited to 48 TB in the Gemini F400 and F600 lines released last year.

The South San Francisco-based company's Gemini X-series is poised to expand the maximum raw capacity to 96 TB in a 2U rack that will use its latest custom-built 4 TB flash drives. The X-series array can scale out to close to 1 PB in a clustered configuration, and with data reduction, it holds the potential to store several petabytes, depending on the data set.

The new Nimbus Gemini X-series uses Flash Directors and Flash Nodes and combines a nonblocking 320 Gbps RDMA switch, up to 40 configurable ports for connectivity and centralized cluster management software. The Flash Director virtualizes the storage capacity into a single namespace and load balances I/O across the nodes.

Nimbus CEO Thomas Isakovich said customers have discussed the prospects of large all-flash deployments for their entire tier-one environments. They can start evaluating the Gemini X-series this month. Nimbus expects to make the product generally available in the summer.

The current Nimbus Gemini F400 and F600 systems are among few all-flash arrays to support block, file and object storage. They also use custom-built multilevel cell (MLC) flash drives, and their 2 TB drive capacity is among the highest of arrays on the market. Also, the Nimbus drives are the only SSDs to use 12 Gbps SAS as opposed to 6 Gbps SAS.

For storage networking, the Nimbus F600 is the only all-flash array to support 40 Gbps Ethernet and 56 Gbps InfiniBand. It also supports 16 Gbps Fibre Channel.

Nimbus arrays support thin provisioning, snapshots, clones, replication, data encryption and quality of service. Nimbus provides all software in the base price of the system.

Performance figures are difficult to compare because all vendors use different configurations and conditions, but Nimbus claims a maximum read IOPS of 2 million with a 4K block size, a maximum read throughput of 12 GBps with a 64K block and read/write latency of microseconds are among the most impressive of flash arrays.

Nimbus guarantees its all-flash arrays, including the SSDs, for up to 10 years so long as the customer has an active support contract. The company claims its flash lifecycle management technology increases the native endurance of MLC flash by more than 50 times. Isakovich has said that customers would not be able to wear out the arrays even if they did nothing but writes during the 10 years.

The company began selling all-flash arrays in 2010 and claims to have collected more than 500 customers in industries such as finance, health care, media, government, education, technology and cloud services. Customers have included eBay, Cloudmark, Mitsubishi Power Systems, Loxogon, Tibco Software and Bangor, Maine-based St. Joseph Healthcare. Primary use cases have been database applications, virtualization (both desktops and servers) and cloud computing.

Nimbus' warranty is for up to 10 years, including all hardware including flash drives and a full software subscription.

Pricing for the Gemini F series begins at $40,000 for a one-controller and 3 TB raw capacity configuration, $55,000 for two controllers and 3 TB, and $280,000 for two controllers and 48 TB. Nimbus claims its price per GB is $4.88 based on redundancy, deduplication and workload type with an $0.02 per IOPS price for a 3 TB entry level configuration.

Isakovich said Nimbus' asymmetric active-active design eliminates performance degradation during controller failure.

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