Solid state storage is so much faster and power efficient than hard disk drives that many organizations are exploring ways to bring it in-house. Yet to maximize the benefits of solid state storage, it needs to offer the right set of hardware and software features so it can be used in the same way as 15K disk based systems have been. This is what differentiates Nimbus Data from competitive solid state storage offerings – organizations get a unified or all-in-one flash memory storage solution with the features they want without additional licensing charges.
To say that flash memory systems are poised to change how storage is delivered and used in production data center environments is a bit of an understatement. Whereas organizations once had to acquire costly storage systems to get the storage performance they needed, flash memory systems eliminate the:
- Need to buy tens, hundreds or even thousands of disk drives for performance
- Need to use techniques like short stroking or wide striping across these disk drives for performance
- Operational power and cooling costs and the floor space that such configurations generate
- Risks and uncertainty associated with storage tiering
Organizations with performance hungry applications particularly stand poised to benefit from increases in performance that flash memory storage systems provide as well as the reductions in capital (CAPEX) and operational (OPEX) expenditures that result from the use of flash memory technologies.
The performance improvements that flash memory storage systems provide over hard disk drives (HDDs) are now almost legendary. Thankfully, this reputation is well founded. Writes to flash memory systems are typically up to 3x faster than HDDs with reads up to 20x faster than HDDs depending on the configuration.
Simply acquiring flash memory storage systems in lieu of tens or even hundreds of HDDs that are typically needed to meet an application’s performance requirements are the most blatant example of how flash memory saves money as this should result in an immediate CAPEX reduction.
Organizations will also realize an equally large reduction in their OPEX. By one estimate, storage already consumes 37% of a data center’s power and cooling costs. So by using solid state storage in place of HDDs, organizations can potentially reduce their power consumption usually by at least 70% with some solutions able to deliver power reductions of up to 95% compared to HDDs.
So with all of these benefits that solid state storage offers, it begs the question, “Why are organizations not adopting solid state storage at a faster rate than they are?” The answer is simple. It costs more, it is perceived as ‘risky’ since it is new and, to take advantage of its benefits, typically requires that the flash memory system ship with the right set of hardware and software features.
On just a raw cost per GB, flash memory systems generally cost about 3-10x that of HDDs. However the REAL cost of a solid state storage system when used in production may be much more. In addition to the cost of the flash itself, there is also a need for redundant parts for failover and high availability as well as software features such as tiering and compression. As such, flash memory systems costs may approach or even exceed $20-25/GB. It is for reasons like these that 71% of customers in an August 2011 Zogby International survey cite cost as their main reason for not implementing solid state storage.
Solid state storage is still also largely perceived and viewed as unproven. The percentage of companies using solid state storage is, in a best case scenario, just only a little over 30%. Further, that does not reflect how widely they are used within the organization. Many only use it in a limited role for a small number of applications as it is had not yet achieved the same level of acceptance as HDDs where everyone uses them almost by default.
Finally, in part because of their nascent adoption rate, the majority of flash based storage systems are still largely purpose built to solve a specific application requirement. As such, they do not offer the full set of features (support for multiple storage networking protocols, replication, deduplication, etc) that are necessary to facilitate its broader adoption within organizations.
This is where Nimbus Data Systems and its Sustainable Storage platforms break from today’s approaches to solid state storage in four important ways.
- HALO software drives down solid state storage’s costs and risks. Nimbus attacked the costs and risks associated with all-flash systems by developing its own operating system (HALO) that manages flash storage based on what it actually is: flash not disk. This approach solves a number of performance issues around managing flash storage (such as having to translate incoming and outgoing data from storage to flash and back again.)
This also contributes to lowering the cost of flash systems in a number of other ways. For example, flash does not need to be packaged to look and act like disk, the cost per GB of a Nimbus Sustainable Storage solution may be up to half of what a competitive solid state storage solution costs while providing the most feature complete system from a hardware and software perspective. Further, since Nimbus is an all-flash storage system, it has no need for tiering or cache which further reduces the costs associated with deploying it.
- Unified storage architecture. Organizations usually have to decide which applications can access their solid state storage appliance as these appliances generally only support a single storage networking configuration – SAN or NAS. Nimbus removes this concern by supporting both SAN and NAS configurations through a unified storage architecture. In this way, they can use the flash memory storage in whatever ways are most beneficial to their organization. Nimbus also is generally recognized as having the broadest number of connectivity offerings (GbE, 10GbE, 40GbE, FC and 40Gb, 56Gb IB) which can be populated in any configuration needed by the customer.
- Scaling architecture. Its market leading scale capabilities are technically part of its HALO OS but it is worth highlighting this feature separately for a simple reason. It gives organizations the ability to start small and then grow the solution significantly (up to 500 TBs) in a single file system if needed as they become comfortable with it. In this way, they can internally address and mitigate whatever concerns they have about flash. As they do so, they can then grow in production without introducing additional management overhead.
- One price – all the features. One of the drawbacks of many storage systems (solid state or HDD) is that to take advantage of their advanced features is organizations need to get licenses to do so. Nimbus has n
o such restrictions. All of the feat
ures it offers – deduplication, replication, snapshots, encryption, SAN, NAS – are included in its $10 per GB price point.
It is how Nimbus bundles these features that Nimbus does more than simply offer a better approach to delivering an all-flash system than its competitors. Its all-in-one packaging of hardware and software coupled with the inherent OPEX savings that are apparent immediately rather than over a three year period using an HDD storage array. Further, the savings when factored in drive the cost per GB for Nimbus down to the point where it is on par with a comparable HDD storage array.
A changing of the guard in storage is afoot as the benefits that solid state storage offers over HDDs are compelling organizations to make a change. But organizations are not so enamored with solid state storage that they are oblivious to its costs and risks. Instead, they just want a solution that makes sense for them.
Nimbus Data represents this type of solution. By providing flash memory systems at a price point organizations can afford, including all of the features they need to make it functional and architecting it so it may be safely and economically scaled, Nimbus has done more than build a revolutionary system. It gives organizations the justifications they need to implement flash memory storage systems now rather than later.