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Nimble builds hybrid solid-state storage to scale

Todd Erickson

Nimble Storage this week adopted a scale-out architecture for its hybrid solid-state drive (SSD) iSCSI SAN

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arrays, adding a performance platform and a series of expansion shelves to grow capacity.

The CS400 series of arrays and ES expansion shelves are the key hardware pieces of what Nimble calls a "scale to fit" architecture. The new Nimble OS 2.0 enables scale-out clustering with any of the vendor's storage products.

The CS400 series can scale SSD cache or compute separately for applications that require high performance such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and online transaction processing (OLTP). The CS400 arrays have SSD caches ranging from 640 GB to 2.4 TB. Nimble uses flash SSDs to accelerate reads and spinning disk for data storage. The CS420-X2 includes 12 TB of raw capacity, the CS440 has 24 TB of raw capacity, and the CS460 includes 36 TB of raw capacity.

The ES1-H25 has 15 TB of raw capacity and a 160 GB flash solid-state disk (SSD) cache. The ES1-H45 has 30 TB of raw capacity and a 300 GB SSD cache. The ES1-H65 has 45 TB of raw capacity and a 600 GB SSD cache.

The ES shelves add capacity to grow everyday applications such as Microsoft SharePoint or Exchange where increased performance may not be needed, according to Dan Leary, Nimble's vice president of marketing.

Leary said Nimble's approach is to let customers scale capacity, compute and cache independently. "What's really unique here is the ability to scale among any of these dimensions and across any one of our systems," he said.

Customers of Nimble's CS200 entry-level hybrid storage arrays -- except for the low-end CS210 -- can convert those systems to CS400 arrays by replacing the dual storage controllers inside those units. However, the CS210 can be expanded with a capacity shelf. Also, a CS210 using Nimble OS 2.0 can be added in a cluster with other Nimble arrays.

Nimble OS 2.0 lets customers add arrays to a cluster or remove them with uninterrupted data access; create storage pools within a cluster to segment applications or workloads; migrate data non-disruptively across pools; and stripe volumes across multiple arrays in a cluster.

Mark Peters, a senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said the ability to use Nimble OS 2.0 to manage clusters will help Nimble compete with larger systems from market leaders such as EMC and NetApp.

"If I'm a user, that's at least as interesting [as the performance and capacity scaling]," he said. "If you are going to play at those levels, then you are expected to have very easy-to-use and forgiving management."

The CS400 and ES systems will be available by the end of September. Pricing for the ES series starts at $35,000 for the ES1-H25. Pricing for the CS400 series will start around $70,000, Leary said. The Nimble OS 2.0 will be a free upgrade for current customers when it becomes available later this year.


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