Software-defined storage is glitzy, but E8 and Nimbus are still delivering hardware

High-end all-flash testing methodologies needed

Comment Despite all the recent noise around software-defined storage (SDS), vendors still keep coming to the market with new hardware solutions. Over the past weeks we’ve seen new products from Nimbus Data and emerging startup E8.

Nimbus

Nimbus Data has had what can only be called a ‘chequered’ history. My first introduction to the company was as part of a Tech Field Day (Storage Field Day 1, in actual fact), with CEO and seemingly only employee Tom Isakovich taking us through the product design principles, including a custom-made SSD device.

Since then, Nimbus has fallen off the radar somewhat, apart from issues with customers which have involved some unpleasant legal action.

Now Nimbus is back with a new range of products under the ExaFlash brand name, with some rather remarkable claims on how the new platform will match up to the incumbents in the market. Nimbus claims its kit will give 95 per cent power savings and 50x capacity increases with highly dense flash.

I took a quick look at the presented stats and I don't think they back these numbers up.

A Pure Storage FlashArray //m50 (for example) offers between 20-88TB raw in 3U; this consumes between 1000-1447W of power. At 95per cent saving, this means Nimbus would have to achieve around 70W for the same capacity, however the smallest A-series platform runs at about 500W. It’s pretty hard to make such significant power savings because all modern arrays are based around similar hardware components.

Making these kinds of comparisons can be done with configurations at the extreme ends of offerings from many vendors and I’m sure there’s one example somewhere that can be used to back up Nimbus’ power/density claims. In general, though, these savings aren’t what typical customers will achieve.

E8

E8 is a new startup that has entered the high-end all-flash market. The E8-D24 offers 70TB of flash in 2U using 2.5-inch NVMe drives. Performance figures are quoted as low as 100µs for read and 40µs for writes, with up to 20/40GB/s of throughput (write/read).

The E8 hardware is competing with the likes of DSSD and Mangstor for the high-end all-flash market. These platforms address new “tier-0” requirements that might have been the target of all-flash systems some 5-6 years ago.

Availability and proof points

Both Nimbus and E8 products won’t be available until later this year and of course the platforms will be in early availability testing with customers.

The Architect’s view

With both systems, the value of offerings will only become apparent through customer testing. Most all-flash arrays use standard components, the latest of which is NVMe. Exactly how these systems manage the media through software becomes a defining factor in choosing which system to buy, rather than the older traditional methods of density and power/cooling savings.

That’s not to say that these features aren’t important; however, a product that scales capacity indefinitely is no use if the performance doesn’t also scale smoothly and without spikes or issues.

The ability to determine system capability can only be validated through testing, and, where possible, using a profile of existing workloads. I don’t think we’ve yet seen any high-end all-flash testing methodologies introduced. These will have to emerge to allow testing to differentiate products as the all-flash market gets ever more competitive. ®




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