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New Nimbus flash motor nibbles just 5 watts per terabyte

500TB of silicon will cost lot more than an E-Class Merc

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Flash array pioneer Nimbus has doubled the capacity of its non-volatile memory slabs with a fault-tolerant data vault that scales to half a petabyte.

Sounding rather like a swanky Mercedes-Benz motor, Nimbus's E-Class storage vehicle follows on from its S-Class Fibre Channel, iSCSI, InfiniBand, NFS and CIFS-access flash arrays, which have inline dedupe and compression. They provided capacities from 2.3TB to 250TB while the E-Class runs from 10TB to 500TB.

Nimbus has bumped up its enterprise cred by stamping out single points of failure, and claims the E-Class has the smallest footprint and is the most scalable and efficient primary storage array in the industry.

The E-Class has fault-tolerant and redundant controllers with automatic and non-disruptive failover. Software updates to the HALO operating system can be done without stopping array operations and extra capacity can be added on the fly. These features are in addition to the existing active-active I/O modules, hot-swap flash modules, power supplies and fans.

The product uses enterprise-grade multi-level-cell flash with a 28 per cent capacity reserve and the flash is RAIDed to levels 5, 6 or 10 with hot sparing.

Regarding the storage efficiency claims, Nimbus says there can be up to 440TB of E-Class capacity in a full rack and the power draw is as low as 5 watts/TB. It says that up to 14 racks full of 15,000rpm hard disk drives can be replaced by a single E-Class box in IOPS terms, 3.2 of them by one E-Class rack in capacity terms, and the E-Class has 20 per cent lower cooling cost compared to 100TB of 15K disk.

Nimbus has signed some flagship customers, such eBay, and counts three of the top 10 semiconductor companies as customers. It says it has been profitable for three years. The company is not a classic Valley startup in that it's not loaded up with VC funding and is being very careful in its hiring and spending. It has 15 US channel partners, and is aiming for 50 by the end of the year. The company says it has operations or partners in six European countries and three Asian ones.

Nimbus is one of three flash array startups that are shipping product; the other two being WhipTail and Violin Memory. This trio will be joined by others later this year, such as Pure Storage and SolidFire. We're still awaiting pure flash arrays, designed from the outset as silicon storage arrays, from the mainstream array vendors. They may come in 2013 and possibly through acquisition.

The E-Class is shipping now and pricing starts at $150,000. ®

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