Nitrogen is SolidFire’s seventh generation OS release, following their theme of naming operating system versions after elements, Oxygen being the next. With 100+ elements on the period table, they should be set for the next several years of releases. While that comment is a little facetious, the company does plan to continue their current policy of more frequent but smaller, (less features) releases, instead of what they’ve called the “big bang” release philosophy common in the storage industry. In fact, StorageSwiss.com posted a write up on SolidFire’s last release in November, “SolidFire lower Entry Point for Cloud-scale, All-flash Arrays”.
VLAN Tagging and Consistency Groups
In this release SolidFire has added VLAN tagging and consistency group snapshots. VLAN tagging is a process that enhances security on multi-tenant networks by putting a VLAN ID into data packet headers so that switches can confirm which VLAN those data belong on. This allows individual tenants or applications to be set up on their own VLANs without impacting system performance or scalability.
Consistency groups make sure that snapshots taken across a group of data volumes supporting an application or a group of related applications are consistent with one another. This ensures data integrity during backups or disaster recovery operations. The release of the company’s seventh generation of software in a few short years points out their move towards a more incremental release schedule for platform software. It also highlights a fundamental aspect of their technology, non-disruptive upgrades.
The Big Bang
Historically, software releases have been a painful process, because platforms weren’t designed for easy upgrades. Companies have traditionally held off releasing new versions until they had to, which compounded the problem by making them epic, “Big Bang” releases. This served to steepen the learning curve by making users swallow too many new features, and increase the likelihood of compatibility issues with other systems in the environment.
SolidFire’s “shared nothing” high-availability architecture removes the disruption of controller failures and RAID rebuilds, enabling new nodes to be added seamlessly. This capability also enables existing nodes to be upgraded without disruption, which in turn, makes frequent software updates feasible.
We think this is the way software should be released: more frequently, so that users don’t have to wait as long for new features and in smaller increments so that there’s less for them to learn with each new release. This also allows companies to respond more quickly to their users’ needs with new features and functionality. Other companies seem to agree as well based on a trend that’s emerging in the storage space. I think their ability to maintain this ‘release cadence’ serves to emphasize one of SolidFire’s biggest advantages, grow easily and upgrade easily.