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SolidFire Nitrogen release adds VLAN tagging, automated snapshots

Nitrogen release of SolidFire Element operating system adds virtual LAN tagging to support multi-tenant network security and native functionality for consistent group snapshots.

All-flash array vendor SolidFire today upgraded its Element operating system, adding multi-tenant networking and snapshot consistency groups to its storage for cloud service providers and enterprises.

Highlights of the version 7 of the Element OS include virtual LAN (VLAN) tagging to support multi-tenant network security and native functionality for consistent group snapshots on mixed SolidFire nodes. The enhancements don't necessarily break new ground, but they are emerging as basic table stakes for all-flash array vendors as they move beyond solely providing a performance bump over hard disk drive arrays.

The names for SolidFire's Element version releases are based on the periodic table. Version 7 is called Nitrogen, following the version 6 Carbon release in May.

Nitrogen features geared to enterprise storage customers

"These are key features for us to offer as we expand into the enterprise data center. It's important that we deliver functionality to customers that allows them to work with SolidFire in the ways they are most comfortable doing so," said Jay Prassl, SolidFire's vice president of marketing.

SolidFire started out exclusively supplying cloud services providers, but its business now is divided almost evenly between cloud hosts and enterprise customers. SolidFire's arrays previously supported enterprise-class features, such as inline deduplication, backup and replication and quality of storage service.

Nitrogen works on all SolidFire storage arrays, including the midrange SF2405 and SF4805 nodes launched in October. The new nodes replace the SF3010 and SF6010 arrays that SolidFire will phase out by the end of 2014. SolidFire is keeping the high-capacity SF9010, launched in 2013, on the market. Customers will be able to mix and match node types and protocols.

Mixed workload consolidation, data redundancy

VLAN support enables customers to isolate and consolidate mixed application workloads on their own logical storage network. Along with VLAN tagging, SolidFire said it will begin shipping code Nov. 30 to support general availability of Fibre Channel (FC) connectivity in Nitrogen. SolidFire's native storage technology is designed on the iSCSI protocol with connectivity via 10-Gigabit Ethernet. The FC code has been available through SolidFire's early access program since July.

Adding native consistency groups enables customers to automate inline snapshots on SolidFire arrays. Each volume can support 32 snapshots. The feature builds on the integrated backup-and-restore technology rolled out in version 6 that lets cloned volumes be shipped in their entirety directly to any object store that supports APIs for OpenStack Swift or Amazon Web Services cloud storage.

The multi-tenancy and guaranteed quality of service is aimed at cloud providers such as Calligo Ltd., based in the U.K.'s Channel Islands. Calligo was an alpha tester of SolidFire technology and became the vendor's first customer in 2012.

Calligo uses SolidFire storage to provide a range of backend cloud-hosted services, including disaster recovery as a service and virtual desktop infrastructure. Calligo customers include organizations that require data residency within their jurisdictions.

"I started doing cloud in 2008 and the biggest problem I had was getting guaranteed performance for multi-tenancy. The SolidFire platform enables us to provide customers with the consistency and granularity they require," Calligo CEO Julian Box said.

SolidFire customers also include eBay and PayPal, and last week it added international software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers Mercado Libre and Endicia to the list.

All-flash array suppliers are trying to catch up with storage management features that already exist in tier-one spinning disk arrays, said& Tim Stammers, a senior analyst at 451 Research LLC.

"The fact that SolidFire is adding functions like this shows that it's already covered a lot of ground and is moving into detail refinements. There are major competitors to SolidFire that are still not able to offer fundamental functions such a remote replication," Stammers said.

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