Nimbus Unveils Nifty Solid State Drive Storage Array

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Nimbus Data Systems has unveiled an all-solid state drive (SSD) data storage array that the company claims is the first of its kind for enterprise storage.

The new Nimbus S-class systems start at $25,000 for a 2.5TB all-SSD array, including enterprise storage management software. CEO Thomas Isakovich said that’s basically the cost of a similar spinning disk array from NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP), if not less.

The array uses Micron’s (NASDAQ: MU) EMLC NAND flash technology, which Isakovich said is more reliable and durable than MLC, but less costly than the SLC flash favored by the likes of STEC (NASDAQ: STEC) and its biggest customer, EMC (NYSE: EMC). Helping the reliability are 28 percent over-provisioning, write amplification and wear-leveling technology.

Despite its basis in lower-reliability MLC, Isakovich said the EMLC-based arrays are plenty reliable. “I’m really confident we’ve over-engineered, if anything,” Isakovich said.

As the company’s biggest customer — and beta tester — is the Department of Defense, Isakovich presumably knows a little something about enterprise storage needs. Nimbus did not have customers ready to talk about the product, which begins shipping today.

For their $25,000, the midrange users envisioned by Nimbus would get 500,000 IOPS and 40 Gbps throughput, and a storage system that can scale to 100TB of flash and 1.3 million IOPS. With inline deduplication and compression that come standard, virtual machine users, for example, could stretch that storage capacity up to 10 times that amount.

And virtualization and database/OLTP environments are what the Nimbus S-class systems are aimed at. Isakovich said virtual desktops will make the I/O problem created by virtual machine sprawl even worse. “There is an I/O problem hitting the storage array that we don’t think spinning disk can handle,” he said.

Nimbus says other approaches to the virtual I/O problem, such as tiering, caching or short-stroking techniques, increase operational complexity, cost and power consumption without substantially improving performance. The Nimbus S-class “replaces the root of the storage performance problem — the hard drive,” the company says.

Nimbus is also touting the green benefits of the arrays, claiming they use 95 percent less power than traditional disk arrays.

The hardware includes 24 blades per 2U shelf, expandable on the fly to a 504-blade maximum, with 6-gig SASconnections, quad 10Gb Ethernet or Gb Ethernet auto-negotiating network ports and a dedicated WAN port. Nimbus claims one 2U shelf requiring a mere 80 watts delivers uncached I/O performance comparable to 2,080 15K rpm drives that would fill eight data center racks and consume 37,000 watts of power.

The unified arrays come with SAN and NAS connectivity (iSCSI, NFS and CIFS), a 64-bit file system, thin provisioning, RAID 6 data protection with rapid rebuild, full redundancy, high-performance snapshots, replication, and simple Web-based management and an API. The arrays come ready to support FCoE, which will be added later this year.

Isakovich launched Nimbus after his previous venture, TrueSAN, was sold to an unnamed publicly traded storage company in 2003. Nimbus began as an iSCSI company aimed at small businesses and added enterprise features and multi-protocol support from there. EMC/Iomega and IBM Tivoli have licensed the company’s iSCSI code.

Nimbus is profitable and debt-free as of last year, said Isakovich, and sells its products through channel partners.

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Peters offered this take on the new Nimbus SSD systems: “Nimbus challenges our certainty that we fully know what is reasonable and possible in the storage business, even when what is proposed matches well known business needs. The company’s approach runs counter to the accepted approach of the storage business over decades by addressing underlying causes rather than merely ameliorating symptoms.”

Peters added, “[I]f the S-class results are even close to its promises then this product is going to garner a great deal of favorable and amazed attention.”

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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