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Nimble iSCSI Array Merges Primary, Secondary Storage

Nimble Storage today launched an iSCSI storage array that offers a new converged approach to primary and secondary storage for midsize companies.

The Nimble Storage CS-Series, which will be generally available in August, uses Flash and SATA disk drives in a way that combines primary storage and snapshot-based backup in a single, converged iSCSI storage, backup and disaster recovery (DR) device.

The CS-Series is based on Nimble’s Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) architecture, which enables inline data compression, intelligent data optimization leveraging Flash memory and high-capacity disk, instant deduplicated backups, and WAN replication.

According to Dan Leary, vice president of marketing, Nimble Storage, the CASL architecture natively supports variable-size blocks.

“Data compresses at different rates so it ends up as variable size blocks. [Using the CASL architecture,] the CS-Series collates variable size blocks and writes out in large, sequential segments so the Flash drives don’t have to perform clean up processes,” said Leary. “This technique provides consistent performance and improves the endurance and lifespan of Flash drives.”

The CASL architecture Multi-Level Cell (MLC) Flash drives (from Intel) as a caching layer by tracking hot data and keeping it in the Flash layer while offloading cold data to its SATA tier.

For backups, the Nimble CS-Series provides instant, capacity-optimized snapshots on SATA drives enabling storage administrators to store 90 days of backups on a single, converged storage and backup device.

In addition, the Nimble Protection Manager enables application and VM-consistent backups for Microsoft and VMware environments. Leary said the CS-Series is optimized for interoperability with Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, VMware, and Microsoft Hyper-V environments.

The CS-Series will be available in two configurations. The CS220 has an effective capacity 9TB primary and 108TB for integrated backup, while the CS240 touts an effective capacity 18TB primary and 216TB backup. The CS-Series is comes standard with thin provisioning, replication, zero-copy cloning, application-integrated data protection, and diagnostics and support. All-inclusive pricing starts less than $3/GB (usable) for primary storage and $0.25/GB for backup storage.

An entry-level configuration starts at a price of just under $50,000. The entry point for the CS240 systems is about $100,000.

Nimble is entering a market dominated by Dell EqualLogic (NASDAQ: DELL), which maintains north of 30% market share in the iSCSI space, according to IDC. It’s a fact that is not lost on the company’s CEO and co-founder, Varun Mehta.

“That’s the competitive landscape we will be walking into. We’re going up against entrenched competition and have to be very different to be protected from the incumbents,” said Mehta. “We don’t take entering this market lightly. We recognized that you have to solve the problem in a new way.”

The company also has its sights set on usurping EMC Data Domain (NYSE: EMC) in the data deduplication space – another tall order.

“We would like to displace Data Domain. The backup process still requires a lot of babysitting. It requires a separate piece of infrastructure that you have to buy and manage and disaster recovery copes are limited to once per day because they are gated by the heavyweight backup process,” Mehta said. “We have combined the backup box and primary box into one system, which allows us to get rid of that copy.”

Nimble Storage will sell the CS-Series through the channel and the company is currently in the process of signing up resellers.

Mehta said and “ideal” reseller partner would be one that sells to smaller businesses and is comfortable selling technology from a startup.

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