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Nimble Moves Up-Market With High-Capacity, High-Performance Hybrid Storage

Nimble Storage is rolling out a new top-end hybrid iSCSI storage array that combines flash and disk with 50% more capacity and double the cache, along with a new release of its operating system that simplifies the creation and management of storage for virtual machines in VMware.

The CS260 delivers 48 Tbytes of effective capacity in a 3U form factor, 2.4 Tbytes of effective flash and the company's Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) architecture, for a primary storage and backup product that costs about $2 per useable gigabyte, says marketing VP Dan Leary. Nimble OS 1.1 includes the Nimble VMware Plug-In version 2.0, which enables users to create Nimble volumes for data stores, develop snapshot schedules, set replication schedules, review capacity and performance, create groups of clones in a single operation, or restore data from snapshots--all within the VMware console they already use.

In addition to dual, hot-swappable controllers and power supplies with mirrored NVRAM for continuous system and data protection, the CS260 allows administrators to upgrade the Nimble array firmware while maintaining continuous data availability and full system performance. Available today, the new array comes in two configurations: the CS260 with six 1 Gbit Ethernet network connections per controller and the CS260G with two 10 Gbit Ethernet and two 1 Gbit Ethernet network connections per controller.

The new array addresses growing interest from enterprise customers that are looking for both more capacity and performance, says Leary. "Lots of companies give you one or the other, but we've been able to bring them together." The CS260 joins the other members of Nimble's portfolio in reducing backup and restore times from hours to seconds, while delivering disaster recovery as an integral component of the solution, he adds.

Nimble burst on to the storage stage in July 2010 with the CS series, which combines primary flash storage and secondary SATA storage, providing high-speed flash access at a reasonable cost along with simpler backup and disaster recovery. Targeted at the midmarket, the line comes with thin provisioning, replication, zero-copy cloning, application-integrated data protection, VMware and Microsoft HyperV support, and diagnostics and support.

Network Computing contributor Howard Marks found the product story compelling because its high performance system can act not only as a primary iSCSI array but also store enough snapshots to replace conventional backups. He said that with executives on the team who are formerly from Data Domain, NetApp and EqualLogic, the company has taken some of the best ideas these companies had--such as the ease of use and scale-out architecture from EqualLogic and redirect on write snapshots from NetApp--and combined them into a very interesting product.

According to Storage Strategies NOW Senior Analyst Jim Bagley, the array announcement is a pretty straight-forward enhancement to the product line, with higher-capacity drives and larger SSD cache, and the operating system enhancement is a nicety for VMware users, allowing configuration control directly from vCenter. "Overall, we like Nimble’s high-availability architecture, features like cloning, replication and thin provisioning, and mirrored NVRAM cache that provides non-stop operation even if a controller fails, and cache protection in case of power failure."

Like several companies in this space, Nimble relies on in-line compression and deduplication of all storage, including the SSD Cache, he says. "This is why they can claim 48 Tbytes 'useable' capacity and 2.4 Tbytes 'useable' SSD, when the real numbers are only 36 Tbytes and 1.2 Tbytes, respectively. Using the 'useable' number, the system lists for $2 per gigabyte--pretty good for the features included."

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