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During the last IT Press Tour (the 14th), in the Silicon Valley (December 1-5, 2014) we met several companies in different categories (Cloud, Storage and Big Data).

The first company that we met (on the first day) was Nimble Storage, one well know name in the storage world (and present for the fouth time at a IT Press Tour).

ITPressTour-LogoIn the introduction part, Dan Leary (VP WW Marketing) has explain the company origin and their vision and mission and why this storage company is different from other storage startup.

Their mission is simple: give customers the industry’s most efficient flash storage platform. Their mission based on a few core beliefs:

  • Flash is a disruptive ingredient that can complement low-cost, high-density disks in the design of a storage system that is radically more efficient and flexible. They believed that an intelligent ground-up design would be efficient in leveraging the strengths and avoiding the weaknesses of each media to simultaneously optimize performance and capacity at the lowest possible cost. At the same time, an ideal design would be flexible in being able to address a broad spectrum of workloads, ranging from flash-centric, performance intensive applications to disk-centric, capacity intensive applications — within the same architecture.
  • Modern data protection will evolve towards snapshot based data management for dramatically better application availability. Traditional approaches to data protection rely on making separate copies of data backup systems, resulting in long backup windows and slow recovery times. They believe that a system that can accommodate thousands of application consistent, space-efficient and performance-efficient snapshots, coupled with WAN-optimized replication, could dramatically improve backup and recovery times.
  • Cloud based management and support will transform customers’ operational experience. Traditional approaches to storage management rely on on-premises software to monitor storage infrastructures. Further, a traditional support approach assumes that a customer would call when issues appear within their data centers, at which point a tiered support model would kick in. They believe that with ubiquitous cloud connectivity, we can monitor customer-deployed systems as if they were at the edge of our network. Further, by combining deep data analytics with rich telemetry, it should be possible to predict most support problems before they occur.

Nimble Storage translated these beliefs into a new storage Adaptive Flash platform introduced in August 2010 composed by two core innovations: 

  • CASL, Nimble Storage’s flash-optimized file system,
  • InfoSight, Nimble Storage’s cloud-based management software.

They are using a pragmatic approach in their choices that not necessary are the best choice available (like using an hybrid approach for flash or a scale up model), but their choices are focused on the target market (that is the mid-sized marked) in order to propose realistic solutions (also in term of costs). They are growing really fast (actually they have more than 4400 customers with several services providers) and we where in the headquarter building (still in Silicon Valley and close to the previous one). Also in Europe their presence is growing (I met them already is several other EMEA events).

Nimble Storage solutions are built on its patented Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) architecture. CASL leverages the unique properties of flash and disk to deliver high performance and capacity – all within a dramatically small footprint.

Video: CASL Architecture Deep Dive

As written CASL use an hybrid flash approach with a unique caching technology and several interesting functions, like inline and real-time (pre-processing) compression, write-optimized data layout (to make them sequential writes), snapshots and integrated data protection, replication, …

The scaling model seems tradition, with a scale-up approach, but they can also scale-out, if needed with:

  • Single-console management of all storage hardware resources as a single storage entity
  • Dynamic load balancing to eliminate performance hot-spots
  • Multi-array data striping, enabling any application to fully leverage the collective hardware resources of the scale-out group
  • Seamless reconfiguration and hardware refreshes, without downtime
  • Flexible configuration of any combination of Nimble Storage arrays, maximizing storage ROI

The only “issue” is the limited scale-out capability that actually is not supported with FC front-end and is still limited to a maximum of four nodes.

But their choices meet the pragmatic approach: found a usable solution. This apply also on the several optimization that make possible, for example, use also “green flash” and controlling the durability and the health by software to improve the endurance.

But although their storage solution is quite interesting, actually they are becoming really interesting and huge innovator in the management and analytics part with the InforSight solution. Ron Bagg (VP Customer Support) has explained the value of this solution.

With InfoSight, Nimble Storage takes a new approach to the storage lifecycle, one that leverages the power of deep-data analytics and cloud-based management to deliver true operational efficiency across all storage activities. It’s not only a remote support and remote monitoring tools, but it’s the data collection and analysis engine (data are collected each 5 minutes) and also a powerful support tool (90% of cases are completely automatically opened and close with this tool).

Finally we got two different interesting demo:

  • Demo: Storage Sizing Toolby with David Adamson (Data Scientist)
  • Demo: Performance Correlation Analysis with Gim Mahasintunan (Principal Engineer)

For more information see also those other posts/articles:

Disclaimer: I’ve been invited to this event by Condor Consulting Group and they have paid for accommodation and travels, but I’m not compensated for my time and I’m not obliged to blog. Furthermore, the content is not reviewed, approved or published by any other person than me.

Andrea MauroAbout Andrea Mauro (2310 Posts)

Virtualization & Cloud Architect. VMUG IT Co-Founder and board member. VMware VMTN Moderator and vExpert (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). PernixPro 2014. Dell TechCenter Rockstar 2014. MVP 2014. Several certifications including: VCDX-DCV, VCP-DCV/DT/Cloud, VCAP-DCA/DCD/CIA/CID/DTA/DTD, MCSA, MCSE, MCITP, CCA, NPP.