DDN Cross-pollination Strategy Benefits HPC and Enterprise Customers

In a recent interview, James Coomer, Senior Vice President for Products at DDN Storage, revealed how the largest private storage company in the world is now bringing its HPC expertise to the enterprise, and enterprise features to HPC.

DDN Expands From HPC into the Enterprise through Acquisitions

DDN is a dominant storage provider for high-performance computing (HPC) environments. As such, DDN has developed a deep understanding of HPC workloads and their demands on storage at scale. While many enterprises are just now passing the petabyte-scale storage threshold, DDN has deep experience with high-performance computing environments at massive scale. DDN is now bringing this infrastructure expertise to the enterprise.
As enterprises grew more interested in HPC and AI, DDN grew more interested in enterprises. Its acquisition of Tintri, Nexenta, and IntelliFlash gave it an entry into thousands of enterprises and the enterprise infrastructure ecosystem. The acquisitions also brought into DDN some of the most advanced AIOps technology in enterprise storage. DDN has embarked on a purposeful cross-pollination of capabilities across all its storage systems.

Strategic Cross-pollination

photo of hummingbird
Photo by Robert Woeger on Unsplash

The overall theme of our conversation was cross-pollination. I asked how DDN is achieving this cross-pollination. James said that part of it is just DDN’s culture. Also, DDN has gradually integrated the engineering teams to operate as a single engineering group across all software platforms under one leader.
DDN’s pre-acquisition products remain under the DDN brand. The acquired enterprise products are being marketed under the Tintri brand. Each product line retains dedicated product management, but as much as possible, DDN is leveraging engineering across the platforms. DDN’s EXAScaler gains enterprise data services, storage analytics and improved management simplicity. Tintri enterprise products gain proven all-NVMe controllers and scalable, high-density storage.

Multiple Storage Solutions, One Hardware Platform

DDN is using the same hardware platform under all its storage solutions. The controller is an all-NVMe, 24-drive, 2RU, dual-controller appliance; the same one DDN uses for EXAScaler. Tintri announced new IntelliFlash and VMstore models based on this controller on October 20. The new IntelliFlash H-series uses this controller. Thus, IntelliFlash now supports 192TB of NVMe flash in the head unit.

Back to the Future

The original IntelliFlash products were hybrid storage. They used multiple non-volatile memory technologies and intelligent caching algorithms in front of capacity provided by hard disk drives in storage shelves. The IntelliFlash H-series is a return to that hybrid storage model.

IntelliFlash H-Series for Scale-up Hybrid NAS

Tintri IntelliFlash H-Series arrays provide nearly 5x the capacity of prior IntelliFlash products. Scalable capacity is provided by using DDN’s existing high-density storage shelves.  Up to four of these 4RU, 90-bay SAS HDD expansion shelves can be attached, providing nearly 7 PB raw capacity at 405 TB per rack unit. IntelliFlash multiplies this raw capacity through inline compression and deduplication.
IntelliFlash now incorporates Nextanta’s NAS stack to offer enterprise-class NAS capabilities. Thus, IntelliFlash competes with Isilon and NetApp for multi-petabyte environments, with solid tiering and data efficiency technologies and broad integration with the enterprise ecosystem.

Tintri VMstore for Intelligent Scale-out Infrastructure

Tintri VMstore new top model also offers up to 192TB NVMe in 2RU, scaling out (not up) to about 5 PB. VMstore’s focus is on automated infrastructure for VM, VDI, SQL Server, and containerized workloads.

DDN EXAScaler for HPC

DDN is bringing the Tintri storage workload metrics, cloud-analytics, and UI to EXAScaler. EXAScaler is also gaining snapshots and other enterprise data services. EXAScaler growth is being driven by adoption in the enterprise, including life sciences and autonomous vehicles. For example, NVIDIA SuperPods all include EXAScaler storage. The focus on ease of integration and base-line enterprise data services has been a key for DDN to bring EXAScaler into the enterprise.

Cross-pollination Benefits All Stakeholders

In summary, DCIG believes that DDN and its customers will realize real benefits from cross-pollinating across product lines. The acquired products (Tintri, NexentaStor, IntelliFlash) have all gained a stable parent in DDN. DDN has gained insight into enterprise requirements and some enabling technologies. The company also achieves efficiency of scale and a simplified supplier pipeline by standardizing on a single hardware platform.
Tintri enterprise products gain proven all-NVMe controllers and scalable, high-density storage. DDN’s EXAScaler gains enterprise data services, storage analytics and management simplicity. The benefits of this strategic cross-pollination should continue to expand in future product releases.
For enterprise environments that expect storage to remain below 5 to 10 PB, workloads determine whether Tintri VMstore or IntelliFlash is the better fit, with IntelliFlash being most suitable as an enterprise NAS solution. If storage requirements exceed 5 to10 PB, DDN EXAScaler may be the better fit.
Disclaimer: This article was not sponsored by DDN or Tintri. It summarizes my reflections on an interview with James Coomer and subsequent Tintri product releases. As such, it solely expresses my own opinions.
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