Nimble Storage Gets Cloudy

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 12.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.


Here are some notes from Nimble Storage‘s presentation at Storage Field Day 12. You can view the video here and download my rough notes here.


Nimble Cloud Volumes

[image courtesy of Nimble Storage]

Nimble Storage announced the beta of Nimble Cloud Volumes (NCV) in late February. Essentially, it is a block storage as a service and works with public cloud compute from AWS and Microsoft Azure.


Storage in the Cloud?

So what’s the problem with cloud block storage at the moment? Nimble spoke about the following issues:

  • Durability and features – Nimble suggest that there is 0.1 – 0.2% annual failure rate with cloud block storage and a real lack of data services wrapped around the solutions;
  • Cloud lock-in is a problem – data mobility is hard (the “Hotel California Effect”), and data egress costs real money;
  • “Black box penalty” – limited visibility into the solution as the storage is ostensibly a black box service provided by your cloud operator. Nimble are counting on people not being entirely comfortable with giving it up to the cloud gods.


So What’s NCV?

The solution’s built on Nimble’s own cloud and their own technology, with deployments existing in very close proximity to AWS and Azure data centres (DCs). The idea is you use NCV for storage and AWS or Azure for your compute. Note that this is currently only operating in American regions, but I imagine that this capability will be expanded based on positive results with the beta. You can read more in the very handy NCV FAQ.


Why Bother with NCV?

According to Nimble, this stuff is enterprise-grade, offering:

  • Millions of times more durable;
  • Data protection & copy data management; and
  • Multi-host access.

Which all sounds great. Although I’d probably take pause when people claim “millions” of times more durability with their solution. In any case, like all things Nimble, you get great visibility into both the cloud and data centre, along with the ability to predict, recommend and optimise the environment to suit your key applications, while leveraging Nimble’s tools to better predict and track usage.


Thoughts and Further Reading

A large part of Nimble’s success, in my opinion, has been their relentless focus on analytics and visibility. They’re betting that people like this (and why wouldn’t they?) and are looking for this kind of capability from their cloud block storage solutions. They’re also betting that everyone’s had some kind of bad experience with block storage in the cloud in the past and will want to take advantage of Nimble’s focus on performance and reliability. It’s a big bet, but sometimes you have to go big. I think the solutions ties in nicely with the market’s acceptance of cloud as a viable compute platform, while leveraging their strength with monitoring and analytics.

People want to consume their infrastructure as a service. Whether it’s the right thing to do or not. Nimble are simple stepping in and doing their own version of consumptive infrastructure. I’m keen to see how this gets adopted by existing Nimble customers and whether it draws in other customers who may have been on the fence regarding either public cloud adoption or migration from on-premises block storage solutions. You can read more at El Reg, while Dimitris does a much better job of writing about this than I do (as he should, given he works for them). The datasheet for NCV can also be downloaded from here.


The Elephant in the Room

For those of you playing along at home, you may have noticed that HPE announced their intent to acquire Nimble just a few days before their Storage Field Day presentation. You can read some interesting articles on the proposed acquisition here and here. For what it’s worth I think it’s going to be fascinating to see how they get bought into the fold, and what that means for the broader HPE portfolio of products. In any case, I wish them well, as everyone I’ve dealt with at Nimble has always been super friendly and very helpful.