Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 7. 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.
For each of the presentations I attended at SFD7, there are a few things I want to include in the post. Firstly, you can see video footage of the Exablox presentation here. You can also download my raw notes from the presentation here. Finally, here’s a link to the Exablox website that covers some of what they presented.
Exablox was founded in 2010 and launched publicly in April 2013. There are two key elements to their solution:
- OneBlox – scale-out storage for the enterprise, offering converged storage for primary and backup / archival data; and
- OneSystem – manage on-premises storage exclusively from anywhere, providing visibility, control, and security without cost / complexity of traditional management
Here’s a photo of Tad Hunt (CTO and Co-founder) showing us the internals of the Exablox appliance.
Exablox started the presentation by talking about what we want from storage re-imagined (my words, not theirs):
- Scale out;
- Be simple yet powerful; and
- Be managed from everywhere.
The Exablox approach is not your father’s standard storage presentation play. Instead of providing block storage via SMB / NFS, or object storage via APIs, it instead presents file protocols via the front-end and services these with object storage on the back-end.
Exablox’s approach revolves around software-defined storage (SDS) and storage management, with the following goals:
- Manage the policy, not the technology;
- SDS “wrapped in tin” for the mid market;
- Eliminate complexity;
- Plug-and-play; and
- Next generation features.
They deliver NAS features atop object storage:
- Without metadata servers;
- Without bolt-on NAS gateways;
- Without separate data and metadata servers; and
- To scale capacity, performance, or resilience: just add a node.
Exablox say they can create scale-out NAS and object clusters atop mixed media – HDD, SSD, Shingled drives. This approach delivers the benefits of object storage technology to traditional applications:
- By using standard file protocols; and
- eliminating forklift upgrades – single namespace across the scale of the cluster.
They also use “RAID-free” data protection:
- Self-healing from multiple drive and node failures;
- Rebalancing time proportional to the quantity of objects on the failed drive;
- Mix and match drive types, capacities, technologies; and
- Introduce next generation drives without long validation cycles.
This provides the ability to scale capacity from TB to PB easily, whilst also offering:
- Zero configuration expansion; and
- Manage from anywhere capability.
Exablox say they are able to support all NAS workloads well. Whereas other object stores are designed primarily for large files, a OneBlox 3308 can handle 1B objects. All nodes perform all functions: storage, control, NAS interface, with a node being a single failure domain.
Hardware Notes and Thoughts
For the purposes of this post, I wanted to focus on the OneBlox appliance. While the OneSystem architecture is super neat, I still get a bit of a nerd tingle when I see some nice hardware. (BTW if Exablox want me test one long-term I’d be happy to oblige).
Exablox claims to be the sole provider of the following features in a single storage solution:
- Scale-out deduplication;
- Scale-out, continuous snapshots;
- Scale-out, RAID-less capacity;
- Scale-out, site-to-site disaster recovery; and
- Bring any drive – one at a time at retail pricing.
They also support auto-clustering, with each node adding:
- Performance; and
- Is seriously bloody quiet;
- Uses 100W under peak load;
- Has 8 * 3.5” drive bays, supporting up to 48 raw TB; and
- Can use a mix of SATA & SAS drives.
Here is a picture of some appliances on a rack.
I was impressed with the strategy presented to me by Exablox, and the apparent ease of deployment and overall design of the appliance seemed great on the surface. I’d like to be clear that I haven’t used these in the wild, nor have I had any view of any benchmark data, so I can’t comment as to the effective performance of these devices. Like most things in storage, your mileage might vary. But I will say they seem quite inexpensive for what they do, and I recommend taking a more detailed look at them.