SolidFire brings Agile Storage Infrastructure to the Enterprise

Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) often walk on the edge of a knife. They have to supply the capacity and performance to meet their clients’ SLAs but still keep costs under control in a hyper-competitive environment. For their storage systems it’s a tough assignment since the infrastructure must also retain the flexibility to facilitate on-the-fly configuration changes to stay ahead of these dynamic workloads. Now apparently, enterprise users are feeling these same pains and are looking to service providers for answers. When they do, many are finding SolidFire.

In a briefing with Storage Switzerland recently, SolidFire announced that business is growing and not just with the service providers that were the original customers for their all-flash arrays. More enterprise companies are now interested in their message of predictable performance, agility and quality of service (QoS).

Flash provides more than performance

People have always fixated to some extent on flash’s performance. But flash is more than just fast – it really enables companies to build storage systems that better support their IT infrastructures. This means better performance, sure, but more predictable performance as well. It also means better multi-tenant support with their QoS capabilities, lower operational costs and better “agility” to configure (and reconfigure) their systems to do all of the above.

The effects of SolidFire’s storage agility also extends into virtualized server environments. SolidFire recently announced an integration with VMware vSphere, This integration provides the ability to allocate and manage storage performance and capacity independently without having to touch the SolidFire system. Together with VMware’s Storage I/O Control (SOIC), admins can leverage SolidFire’s QoS capabilities to ensure predictable performance at the VM level and support automated, dynamic allocation to every VM and datastore.

Agility today includes virtualized environments. In response, SolidFire recently announced integration with VMware vSphere, providing end-to-end storage control managed natively from the hypervisor. This integration provides the ability to allocate and manage storage performance and capacity independently without having to touch the SolidFire system. Together with VMware’s Storage I/O Control (SOIC), admins can leverage SolidFire’s QoS capabilities to ensure predictable performance at the VM level and support automated, dynamic allocation to every VM and data store.

Mixed-Node Clusters – why it matters

Recently, also SolidFire released a new version of their operating system, OS6 (which was the subject of this write up by Storage Switzerland), that included a number of strong features. One of those was the ability to support mixed-node clusters, allowing users to add new nodes to their scale-out architectures without requiring that they be similar to the existing nodes in the cluster.

This seems like a pretty simple feature and one that most scale-out storage systems would probably include. But like the discussion above about flash performance, there’s more to supporting mixed nodes than one may realize. As it turns out SolidFire’s unique architecture in which performance and capacity are managed independently is a key ingredient, enabling this important characteristic and providing several key benefits.

Future-proof storage

As capacity and performance demands increase, new nodes can be easily added to an existing cluster without interruption. SolidFire’s architecture automatically incorporates the new nodes’ performance and capacity into the shared pools and makes the new resources instantly available for provisioning. This eliminates the need for data migration and the costs and disruption that accompanies traditional storage upgrades.

Then, as storage nodes age, the same principals apply; older nodes are simply removed from the cluster. This effectively eliminates the cost of generational storage upgrades, costs that some studies say can add another 50% to the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a new storage array. Mixed node cluster support allows IT managers to change the performance and/or capacity characteristics of their storage infrastructure over time – making it easy to respond to rapidly changing demands.

StorageSwiss Take

In a world of dynamic, multi-tenant storage environments, capacity and performance are resources to generate, maintain and allocate, like a utility manages power. As mentioned above, this seems to be important for enterprises as well as cloud service providers. Scale-out architectures were designed for this environment, but there’s a rub. How do you upgrade the nodes themselves? SolidFire has addressed this issue by supporting mixed node clusters, eliminating the cost and disruption of upgrading storage systems and migrating data sets.

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Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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