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Nimbus Offers Green, Cost-Efficient Storage With SSD

Taking a "green technology" approach, Nimbus Data Systems Inc. says that its Sustainable Storage solid-state drive (SSD) network storage devices could result in energy costs up to 95 percent lower than those of traditional network storage based on spinning disk storage technology, but what impressed most analysts briefed on the product line was the price. The traditional hard drive has not kept pace with technology, and the best way to address its power and performance limitations is to do away with it entirely, says Tom Isakovich, CEO of the San Francisco-based company. The five-year-old company has about 30 employees, 200 customers, and is both profitable and debt-free.

"Pretty cool, going SSD-only at that price," says Howard Marks, founder of and a Network Computing contributor. "What Nimbus is doing is essentially throwing a gauntlet at the industry and stating that one can build an entire system from SSDs and get all the advantages of SSDs and still price the product at the Fibre Channel drive-based systems level," says Arun Taneja, Founder & Consulting Analyst, Taneja Group. "This is generally been accepted as not possible. This is so barn-burning that one has to say, 'I am from Missouri, show me?' If the system delivers on its stated promise, others in the industry will have to rise up to it or else play second fiddle to a startup -- again."

Members of the Sustainable Software product line offer up to 504 redundant NAND flash blades, providing up to 100TB, using 10GbE and 1GbE. The system also includes inline data deduplication that can result in a 10-1 reduction of stored data, Isakovich says. Nimbus claims the system offers 24 times the performance of a traditional system. For example, one S-class shelf provides the same performance as 2,080 15K rpm drives that would require eight data center racks and 37,000 W of power, the company says.

Not only does this greatly reduce the power and cooling requirements, but the system may no longer need a traditional data center environment at all, Isakovich says, adding that the company is working on new enclosures to make it more suitable for an office environment. While most SSDs have a drop in performance after some use and are limited in the number of writes per day they should perform to keep that performance, Nimbus is dealing with this through techniques such as write amplification, wear leveling, and over-provisioning, says Isakovich. In addition, because it is a RAID system, if one blade goes out, the rest continue to run and the blade can be replaced under warranty, he says.

The systems come with the company's HALO operating system (which originally stood for "high availability/low overhead," Isakovich says). It also includes features such as mirroring, replication, and thin provisioning, says Taneja. The Nimbus S-class is available now.  A 2.5TB model with a HALO storage operating system license is $24,995; a 5TB model is $39,995. The S-class scales modules up to 21 enclosures for up to 100TB total.