SolidFire launches its largest all-flash storage array with SF9010

SolidFire released its SF9010 all-flash array, which uses 960 GB Samsung solid-state disks for a total raw capacity of 9.6 TB per 1U node.

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Solid-state array provider SolidFire announced the addition of the SF9010 model to its line of all-flash storage arrays, with 2.5-inch 960 GB Samsung SSDs and an effective price below $3 per GB and $1 per IOPS. The company also announced a $31-million series C round of financing led by Samsung.

A single SF9010 node is a rackmount 1U form factor unit with 256 GB of memory and 9.6 TB of raw all-solid-state drive (SSD) capacity that provides 75,000 IOPS. With SolidFire's in-house thin provisioning and deduplication technologies, and industry standard compression algorithms, Jay Prassl, SolidFire's vice president of marketing, said a single node's effective capacity is close to 34 TB. He said the SF9010 can run in a 100-node cluster, bringing effective capacity to 3.4 PB.

The SF9010 is SolidFire's third all-flash array model, following the SF3010 and the SF 6010. The two earlier systems became generally available in November 2012. The SF3010 uses 300 GB SSDs, 72 GB of memory and an 8 GB non-volatile write cache. The SF6010 utilizes 600 GB SSDs and 144 GB of memory.

SolidFire uses industry standard hardware to build its arrays -- including Samsung SSDs, mostly Dell chassis, Marvel Technology Group chips and Viking Technology DRAM -- while focusing on providing software to manage the SSDs and data-reduction technologies.

SolidFire targets cloud service providers and enterprises that are building large-scale public and private cloud infrastructures. "We believe the world is headed towards more large-scale computing," Prassl said. "The cloud is getting more efficient."

Philbert Shih, managing director of Ontario, Canada-based Structure Research, said there is strong cloud-provider demand for the SF9010's performance.

"There is demand in the sector for stronger performance in the cloud," Shih said. "That's one of the main stumbling blocks and challenges facing hosting and cloud providers, and most notably, they are coming up against Amazon."

Shih sees high performance as a way for smaller cloud providers to differentiate themselves.

"[SolidFire's technology] is an important development for the sector because it is essentially a way for service providers to address that pain point and differentiate against a powerful and prominent cloud infrastructure provider," he said.

General availability of the SF9010 is scheduled for September 2013 and will be sold directly. No pricing details were released except for the vendor's price per gigabyte and per IOPS estimates.

Prassl said the combination of SSD advances and the SolidFire's data reduction technologies allows it to sell all-flash arrays below the cost of hard disk drives.

"We're not [talking about being] close to disk," Prassl commented. "We're not out talking to the marketplace about buying flash at the same cost as disk. We're talking about it now being below [the cost of disks]."

SolidFire competes with both all-flash array startup companies and old-school, large storage system providers, Prassl said, but the competition points are different. Prassl called his company's competition with the other all-flash startup providers "marketing competition" because SolidFire is frequently lumped in with the startups in the media and in marketing materials. The other all-flash startups include Kaminario, Nimbus Data, Pure Storage, Violin Memory and Whiptail.

But Prassl said they have yet to see those companies in competitive deals. Instead, SolidFire competes with the big names in large-scale-environment accounts, such as EMC Corp., NetApp Inc. and sometimes Hewlett-Packard Co.'s 3PAR technology.

Along with Samsung, SolidFire's $31-million funding round included investments from New Enterprise Associates, Valhalla Partners and Novak Biddle Ventures Partners. The startup now has $68 million in funding. Prassl said SolidFire will use the new round mostly to expand sales and marketing.

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