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Nimbus Data Systems launches Nimbus S-class all-solid-state, no-disk storage system

Dave Raffo
Nimbus Data Systems Inc. today launched an all-solid-state storage system that supports NAS and iSCSI

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and carries a price tag that's certain to attract interest and raise eyebrows at the same time.

The Nimbus S-class system costs $24,995 for a 2.5 TB model, while a 5 TB model is $39,995. The 2U system scales up to 21 enclosures and 100 TB. Nimbus Data Systems claims the system can deliver up to 500,000 IOPS and 40 Gbps throughput with 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) connectivity. Nimbus Data Systems has also added inline data deduplication for primary storage to its HALO operating system, which already supports snapshots and replication.

Tom Isakovich, CEO at Nimbus Data Systems, said the diskless storage system is targeted primarily at organizations with many virtual machines (VMs) or heavy database use.

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"We're making a logical jump to where primary storage needs to go," he said. "The fundamental problem with storage -- the hard drive -- must be addressed."

The company already had storage systems that supported SSDs, but Isakovich maintains that 100% solid state makes the most sense for handling primary data storage. Most storage vendors see SSDs coupled with SATA for bulk storage as an effective tiered storage strategy, but Isakovich said SSDs and SATA appeal to different types of customers.

"We saw an opportunity to bring a solid-state product within a reasonable striking distance of the cost of a 15,000 rpm disk solution, as opposed to a tiered solution, which doesn't really make anybody happy," he said.

How does Nimbus Data Systems get the price so low? Isakovich said the vendor manufactures its own NAND flash module instead of buying modules from a supplier such as STEC Inc., which has OEM deals with most major storage vendors. Isakovich said Nimbus' systems use SAS interfaces and Micron enterprise multi-level cell (EMLC) flash chips, which he claims are six times as durable as standard MLC components. The S-class blades are 28% overprovisioned, with write amplification and wear-leveling to increase durability.

Analysts: Will Nimbus S-class work as advertised?

Storage analysts said the Nimbus S-class looks impressive on paper, but they're interested to see if it works as advertised. Nimbus Data Systems said the Department of Defense (DoD) and a few other beta users have tested the system, but there are no reference customers yet.

"In a world of horse and carriage, they're talking about a BMW," said Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). "But we're going to have to see it to believe it. If real-world testing lives up -- even just mostly -- to the PowerPoint, then this is going to garner considerable attention."

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at Hopkinton, Mass.-based Taneja Group, also said he would have to see the system to believe it.

"In many ways it sounds too good to be true. I'm in a little bit of disbelief," he said. "It's still a little bit of a mystery to me how they can get the cost down so dramatically. It's a very 'gee-whiz' concept, but let me see it."

Noemi Greyzdorf, research manager, storage software at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, said the Nimbus SSD system should appeal to customers with high IOPS performance needs, but she doesn't think mainstream shops will jump on an all-SSD system yet.

"The early adopters will be people who have real issues with performance because when you talk about price/performance, the price point they give you is pretty convincing," she said. "There's definitely a layer of users that will see this as a real problem solver. But there has to be some proof of concept of that performance, as well as the capability of the deduplication."


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