Nimble Storage – Predictive Flash Platform Announcement – (Fairly) Full Disclosure

Disclaimer: I was recently a guest at Nimble Storage‘s Predictive Flash Platform announcement.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Nimble Storage. 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 my notes on gifts, etc, that I received as an attendee at Nimble Storage’s recent launch (2016.02.23) of their Predictive Flash Platform. You can read the article I posted on the launch here. I’m just trying to make it clear what I received during this event to ensure that we’re all on the same page as far as what I’m being influenced by. I’m going to do this in chronological order, as that was the easiest way for me to take notes during the week. I’d also like to clarify that I took 5 days of unpaid leave from my regular employer to be at this event.

 

Saturday

I left my house Saturday morning at 8am and travelled BNE -> LAX -> SFO. My wife paid for airport parking on Saturday. I ate some plane food on the flight over, included as part of the fare. I also had a Bloody Mary, of sorts. A friend picked me up and I stayed the night outside the City.

 

Sunday

On Sunday I took a Caltrain to SF. Nimble Storage covered my accommodation (as well as my flights) in the Marriott Marquis. In my room was a Nimble Storage-branded backpack, a fleece jacket and a Beats Pill+ portable speaker. Nice. On Sunday night Jon Klaus and I had dinner in a nice Italian restaurant at our own expense.

 

Monday

Jon, Enrico and I had breakfast at Mel’s Diner on Monday morning at our own expense. We then all met up in the lobby of the Marriott to kick off the Nimble Storage event and headed off on a food tour of the Mission District run by Edible Excursions. So much good food, including half an egg and ham muffin at Craftsman and Wolves, chocolate at Dandelion Chocolate, half a chicken banh mi at Duc Loi Kitchen, a taco and Margherita at Tacolicious on Valencia, half a ham and cheese croissant at Tartine, and a salted caramel scoop at Bi-Rite Creamery. We followed this up with a meal at Epic Steak. I had the Hamachi Sashimi, Grilled Ribeye Steak and Chocolate Salted Caramel Mousse. This was washed down with a Kith and Kin 2013 vintage cabernet sauvignon. Good stuff.

 

Tuesday

I skipped breakfast on Tuesday. At the press event held at One Kearny Club I received a 4GB USB stick with some Nimble Storage collateral on it. After the press-only event I had lunch consisting of a California turkey sandwich, apple, Kettle potato chips and a choc-chip biscuit. I had two bottles of sparkling mineral water as well. At the customer event, we all received a Nimble Storage-branded “Chrystal Ball” (made of fairly solid acrylic), and a Nimble Storage-branded “Cobra VR Viewer”. Once the customer presentation was finished, I helped myself to a few Lagunitas Pils beers and tried an Anchor Steam Beer for good measure. I also partook of some pretty fine devilled eggs and a “Sidewalk” cocktail. This was all covered by Nimble Storage. For dinner I went out with some nice people to the Mikkeller Bar and had two Pivo Pils (by Firestone Walker Brewing Company) and some sausages wrapped in bacon. Stu Miniman kindly picked up the tab.

 

Wednesday

Wednesday morning Stephen Foskett kindly bought Jon and I breakfast as the Nimble event had concluded. I spent time with a local friend before making my way to SFO.

 

Conclusion

I’d like to extend my thanks to the team at Nimble Storage for organising such an enjoyable event and doing everything they could to make sure my stay was comfortable and informative. It was great to meet for the first time or catch up again with the team and I also appreciated the opportunity to rub shoulders with some really interesting folk from the press, blogger and vendor side of things.

IMG_3116

Nimble Storage Announces Predictive Flash Platform

Disclaimer: I was recently a guest at Nimble Storage‘s Predictive Flash Platform announcement.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Nimble Storage. 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.

Nimble Storage recently invited me to attend their Predictive Flash Platform launch event (2016.02.23) in San Francisco. You can download a copy of my raw notes here. I’ll be doing a more detailed disclaimer post in the near future [update – you can find that here], and I hope to be diving into some of the tech behind this announcement in further detail in the next little while.

 

Nimble Predictive Flash Platform

The Nimble Storage Predictive Flash Platform is comprised of three components:

  • InfoSight – provides predictive analytics;
  • Unified Flash Fabric – provides the ability to manage adaptive arrays and AFAs as one platform; and
  • Timeless Storage – Nimble Storage aims to deliver extremely high levels of customer satisfaction.

 

InfoSight

I’ve waxed lyrical about InfoSight previously, and remain a big fan of the product. My favourite quote comes from Rod Bagg – “InfoSight collects and analyses more sensor data points every four hours, than there are starts in the galaxy”. Which is pretty cool stuff. Nimble Storage uses InfoSight to

  • Prevent issues and downtime;
  • Deliver cross-stack root cause analysis of issues; and
  • Predict future needs and future planning.

Nimble Storage tell me that 9/10 issues are detected by them before customers know about them. They also say that it’s less than 1 minute of hold time before you get to speak to a Level 3 support engineer when there is a problem. I’ve spoken to a few customers over time, and all of them have told me that the customer experience has been nothing but stellar.

 

Unified Flash Fabric

I had a chance to talk to Dan Leary, VP of Products, Solutions and Alliances, about what Unified Flash Fabric really was. The key element of the solution is that it provides a logical mechanism to tie together up to four All Flash and Adaptive Flash arrays into a single architecture with common data services. The key here is that NimbleOS is common across the platforms, so you can mix and match.This also provides the ability to “Scale-to-fit” – providing the customer with flexible and non-disruptive scalability. In terms of scale up, you can add disk as required, whilst also adding the ability to non-disruptively upgrade the controllers to add CPU and memory as required. You can also scale out with up to 4 arrays managed as one. In my opinion, the most interesting use case here is data mobility, with Nimble Storage providing the capability to move data from an adaptive system to the all flash system in the same cluster, then remove the adaptive system from the cluster without downtime. Here’s an image from the Nimble Storage website that provides an illustration of how you might want to move your applications about.

Nimble_Storage-Transparent_Application_Mobility

If anyone has real-world experience with this data mobility technology (sure, it’s probably a bit early) I’d be happy to buy you a beverage to learn more about how it’s worked for you.

 

Timeless Storage

Timeless Storage sounds a little like Pure Storage’s Evergreen Storage approach. Customers seem to be fed up with bleeding cash every few years, so it’s nice to see the likes of Pure Storage and Nimble Storage coming up with these types of new approaches.

Nimble Storage state that the “Timeless Guarantee provides investment protection and upgrade certainty”. The crux of the programme is:

  • All-inclusive software licensing
  • Flat support prices in years 4 and 5
  • Option for new controller after 3 years
  • Capex or storage-on-demand
  • Only pay for the storage you use
  • Scale up or down to meet demand

 

Hardware?

Yep. Four new models, to be precise. You can view a PDF of the data sheet here. Here’s a photo of Suresh Vasudevan and Varun Mehta unveiling the array at the launch. I love that Varun looks so happy. If you ever get a chance to sit down with him, take the time. He’s wonderful to talk to, super smart and a mad gadget guy in his spare time.

Nimble_Storage - Varun Mehta

Here’s a picture of what one of the new arrays looks like.

Nimble_Front4a2

And here’re some speeds and feeds (taken from the Nimble Storage website).

Specifications AF3000 AF5000 AF7000 AF9000 4X AF9000
Raw Capacity (TB) 6-92 / 5-83 11-184 / 10-167 11-323 / 10-293 23-553 / 20-503 2212 / 2012
Usable Capacity (TB)(TiB) 4-67 / 3-61 8-136 / 7-123 8-238 / 7-217 17-409 / 15-372 1636 / 1488
Effective Capacity (TB)(TiB) 20-335 / 15-305 40-680 / 35-615 40-1190 / 35-1085 85-2045 / 75-1860 8180 / 7440
Max # of Expansion Shelves 1 1 2 2 8
Raid Level Triple+ Parity RAID Triple+ Parity RAID Triple+ Parity RAID Triple+ Parity RAID Triple+ Parity RAID
Max IOPS 4k 100% Read 60,000 140,000 270,000 350,000 1,400,000
Max IOPS 4k 70% Read/30% Write 50,000 120,000 230,000 300,000 1,200,000
iSCSI/Mgmt 1Gb/10Gb ports per array 4 4 4 4 16
Optional iSCSI 1Gb/10Gb ports per array 4 or 8 4 or 8 4 or 8 4 or 8 Up to 32
Optional FC 8Gb/16Gb ports per array 4 or 8 4 or 8 4, 8 or 12 4, 8 or 12 Up to 48
Power Requirement (Watts) 600W / 0.667kVA 700W / 0.778kVA 800w / 0.889kVA 900W / 1kVA 3600W / 4kVA
Thermal (BTU) 1,965 2,293 2,620 2,948 11,792

 

New features?

3D-NAND

The new arrays have been designed for cost-optimised 3D-NAND through the use of advanced flash endurance management, large-scale coalescing and integrated hot-sparing. You can read more about the Samsung PM863 Series SSDs here. As a result of this approach, Nimble Storage claims that it provides for:

  • A 7 year SSD lifespan;
  • Increased performance; and
  • 20% more useable capacity (relative to other systems on the market).

 

Dual-flash Carrier

One of the cool things that has been introduced as part of the AF-series array is the new Nimble Storage Dual-Flash Carrier (DFC), with the capacity of each slot doubled to a total of 48 SSDs per array and expansion shelf. Each individual SSD is hot swappable and can be installed or removed from the DFC independently. Nimble Storage has also “qualified five Samsung PM863 Series SSDs, ranging in capacity from 240GB to 4TB” across the AF-Series.

 

Data Reduction

Nimble Storage were careful to use the term “effective capacity” a number of times, with arrays shipping with 503TB of RAW storage being positioned as having 2PB of (marketing) capacity. The good news is that Nimble have worked in a number of data reduction features (variable block deduplication, variable block compression, zero pattern elimination) that they say leads to 5x or more data reduction. I spoke to one of their customers, Justin Giardina (CTO of iland) and he confirmed that their beta testing of the platform had yielded some very positive results. As always, there are a tonne of variables that can impact your success with deduplication, so if you’re betting the farm on this, it’s best to be conservative, and talk to your local Nimble Storage folks or partner about what you really need to get the job done.

 

Non-stop Availability

Nimble Storage have been pretty focussed on “non-stop availability”, and have introduced a couple of new features to support this goal:

  • Triple+ parity RAID – tolerates three simultaneous drive failures plus intra-drive protection and integrated sparing
  • Integrated data protection – SmartSnap and SmartReplicate
  • SmartSecure Encryption – application-granular encryption and secure data shredding

 

Further Reading and Final Thoughts

You can read Vipin’s thoughts on the announcement here, while Stephen has a comprehensive write-up here, and El Reg covered it here. You can read a good blog post by Suresh that summarises it all nicely here. A few press releases have been made available as well, and you can check them out here, here, and here. A common reaction to the news of Nimble Storage’s announcement has been “well, it’s about time”. There’s a lot of noise in the AFA market, which is why I think that software like InfoSight makes the Nimble Storage solution a lot more interesting. If you’re in the market for an AFA (even if you don’t need it), I recommend having a chat to Nimble Storage.

Nimble Storage – InfoSight is still awesome

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 8.  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 SFD8, there are a few things I want to include in the post. Firstly, you can see video footage of the Nimble Storage presentation here. You can also download my raw notes from the presentation here. Finally, here’s a link to the Nimble Storage website that covers some of what they presented.

 

400px-Nimble_logo

Nimble Storage have been around for a while now, and I put up an enthusiastic post about their InfoSight product after hearing about it at Storage Field Day 6. The cool thing is they’ve been working hard at improving what was already an impressive offering.

 

InfoSight is still awesome

Rod Bagg provided an overview of InfoSight. Nimble have spent a lot of time working on what they call “Operational Intelligence”. They asked a few pointed questions of their products:

  • “In a connected world why can’t vendors proactively monitor customer deployed systems?”
  • “With modern data analytic tools can vendors predict and prevent problems before they occur?”

Nimble’s design philosophy for InfoSight is as follows:

  • Be intuitive – present use cases and not just data
  • Be prescriptive – provide specific recommendations for immediate action
  • Be predictive – estimate future needs based on current and past learning

Rod then shared some “fun facts” about the statistics they’ve been collecting:

Deep Data

  • 1000s of unique sensors recording operational data each second,
  • 30-70M data points collected from every array every day,
  • >20000000 heartbeats every week

Big Data

  • 200B log events
  • by-day view of every config element of every array
  • lifetime data from day 1

Rich Analytics

  • rich install base
  • data from 1000s of arrays for 5+ years
  • dedicated team of data scientists on support staff
  • advanced analytics techniques,

 

My favourite thing about all of this is the idea that you can use InfoSight as a key part of protecting your investment. If your vendor has access to statistics about 1000s of deployed systems, why wouldn’t you use them to help you with the following exercises?

Workload Sizing

Nimble has access to “1000s of system-years” of real-world data. They also have an understanding of workloads correlated to resource consumption. In this fashion you can aim to understand the exact configuration before you make your purchase.

Predictive Capacity Recommendations

InfoSight also provides you with the ability to perform continuous storage capacity prediction, and plan your storage purchase in advance. This is invaluable when working in environments where budgets are allocated at fixed points in time.

Scale-to-fit Recommendations

As Nimble has a whole bunch of data on workload and behaviour across a number of systems, they can help you with the working-set analysis for cache and CPU optimisation. With this information you’ll also be able to understand the optimal cache, scale-up and scale-out requirements before you deploy the system.

 

Closing Thoughts and Further Reading

I was excited about InfoSight when I first saw it in action, and I remain an enthusiastic advocate for this approach to understanding your storage environment. I love the idea of taking a lot of the guesswork out of platform sizing, in addition to making good use of the available data. While the Nimble Storage hardware isn’t for everyone, I encourage you to have a look at them if you’re in the market for a hybrid array, simply by virtue of the fact that the InfoSight product has the potential to provide a valuable insight into what your storage is doing on a daily basis.

IMG_2457

 

Storage Field Day 6 – Wrap-up and Link-o-rama

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 6.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day and their sponsors. 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.

This is a quick post to say thanks once again to the organisers and sponsors of Storage Field Day 6. I had a great time, learnt a lot, and didn’t get much sleep. For easy reference, here’s a list of the posts I did covering the event (not necessarily in chronological order).

Storage Field Day 6 – Day 0
Storage Field Day 6 – Day 1 – Avere
Storage Field Day 6 – Day 1 – StorMagic
Storage Field Day 6 – Day 1 – Tegile
Storage Field Day 6 – Day 2 – Coho Data
Storage Field Day 6 – Day 2 – Nexenta
Storage Field Day 6 – Day 2 – Pure Storage
Storage Field Day 6 – Day 3 – Nimble Storage
Storage Field Day 6 – Day 3 – NEC
Storage Field Day 6 – (Fairly) Full Disclosure

Also, here’s a number of links to posts by my fellow delegates. They’re all really smart folks, and you’d do well to check out what they’re writing about. I’ll update this list as more posts are published.

 

Eric Shanks
Storage Field Day 6
Local Premises Storage for EC2 Provided by Avere Systems
Nimble Storage Data Analytics – InfoSight

Will All New Storage Arrays be Hybrid?

 

John Obeto
Today at Storage Field Day 6

Day 2 at Storage Field Day 6: Coho Data

Day 2 at Storage Field Day 6: Nexenta Systems

 

Arjan Timmerman
Storage Field Day Starts Today :D

 

Nigel Poulton

Nexenta – Back in da house…

 

Enrico Signoretti
Avere Systems, great technology but…

 

Chin-Fah Heoh

MASSive, Impressive, Agile, TEGILE

 

Jon Klaus
Storage Field Day 6 Day 0 – Sightseeing and Yankee swap
SFD6 Day 1 – Avere, StorMagic, Tegile

 

Finally, thanks again to Stephen, Claire and Tom, it was a great few days and I really valued the opportunity I was given to attend.

Storage Field Day 6 – (Fairly) Full Disclosure

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 6.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day and their sponsors. 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.

My full disclosure post will be nowhere near as epic as Justin’s, although he is my role model for this type of thing. Here are my notes on gifts, etc, that I received as a delegate at Storage Field Day 6. I’m going to do this in chronological order, as that was the easiest way for me to take notes during the week.

Tuesday

My wife paid for parking at BNE airport when she dropped me off. I also bought McDonalds for lunch at SYD, paid for by myself (in more ways than one). A period of time passed and I consumed plane “food”. This was included in the price of the ticket. Alcoholic beverages were not, but I stuck with water. Bless you United for keeping the economy class sober on long-haul flights.

On Tuesday night we had the Delegate dinner at Genji Steak House – a Teppanyaki restaurant in San Jose. I had the gyoza, followed by chicken and prawns with water. This was paid for by Tech Field Day. I also received 2 Manchester (City and United) beanies and 3 large blocks of Cadbury chocolate as part of the gift swap. Tom also gave me a care pack of various American snacks, including some Starbucks Iced Coffee and Nutella. I gave most of it to an American friend prior to my departure. I also had 2 Dos Equis beers in the hotel bar with everyone. This was also paid for by Tech Field Day.

Wednesday

At Avere‘s presentation on Wednesday morning I was given an Avere t-shirt. We had lunch at Bhava Communications in Emeryville (the location of the first two presentations). I had some sandwiches, a cookie, and a can of coke. At StorMagic‘s presentation I was given a 4GB USB stick with StorMagic info on it, as well as a personalised, leather-bound notebook. At Tegile‘s presentation I received a 2200ma portable USB charger thing. I also had a bottle of water.

On Wednesday night we had a delegate dinner (paid for by Tech Field Day) at an “Asian fusion” restaurant called Mosaic. I had the Triple Crown (Calamari, scallops, tiger prawns, asparagus, ginger, white wine garlic sauce). We then went to “Tech Field Day at the Movies” with delegates and friends at the Camera 12 Downtown. We watched Twelve Monkeys. I had a bottle of water from the concession stand. Tech Field Day covered entry for delegates and friends.

Thursday

Thursday morning we had breakfast at Coho Data. I had a sausage and egg roll, some greek yoghurt and an orange juice. I also received a personalised LEGO minifig, a LEGO Creator kit (31018), a foam fish hat (!) and a Coho Data sticker. At Nexenta‘s session I received a Nexenta notepad, orange Converse sneakers with Nexenta embroidered on them and a Nexenta-branded orange squishy ball. Lunch was pizza and some cheesy bread and boneless chicken and a bottle of water. At the Pure Storage session I received a Pure Storage-branded pilsener glass and a 8GB USB stick in a nice little wooden box.

For dinner on Thursday we had canapés and drinks at Cucina Venti  Italian restaurant. This was paid for by Tech Field Day, as was my entry to the Computer History Museum that night (a personal highlight).

Friday

Breakfast was had at Nimble Storage‘s office. I had bacon, eggs and juice. I also received a Nimble-branded jacket and a Raspberry Pi kit. At NEC, I received a set of NEC-branded Headphones. We had lunch at NEC’s office which consisted of Thai food.

I then made my own way to SFO with a friend.

Conclusion

I’d like to extend my thanks to the Storage Field Day organisers and the sponsors of the event. I had a great time. Since I can’t think of a good way to wrap up this post I’ll leave you with a photo.

SFD6_Swag

 

Storage Field Day 6 – Day 3 – Nimble Storage

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 6.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day and their sponsors. 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 SFD6, there are a few things I want to include in the post. Firstly, you can see video footage of the Nimble Storage presentation here. You can also download my raw notes from the presentation here. Finally, here’s a link to the Nimble Storage website that covers some of what they presented.

I had a briefing from Nimble Storage in Australia last year when I was still working in customer land. At the time I liked what they had to offer, but couldn’t really move on getting hold of their product. So this time around it was interesting to dive into some other aspects of the Nimble Storage story that make it a pretty neat offering.

Rod Bagg, VP of Customer Support, spoke about Nimble’s desire to “[m]aintain a maniacal focus on providing the industry’s most enviable customer support”. They achieve this through a combination of products and strategies, but InfoSight underpins the success of this undertaking.

As with most storage vendors, customers have been asking Nimble:

  • Why can’t vendors proactively monitor customer systems for insights?
  • Can vendors predict and prevent problems before they occur?

Since 94% of the deployed Nimble Storage arrays connect back to the mothership for monitoring and analysis, it would seem a shame not to leverage that information. With InfoSight, it appears that they’ve made some headway towards solving these types of problems.

From a telemetry perspective, Nimble collects between 12 and 70m sensors per array daily, with data collected every 5 minutes and on-demand. They then perform systems modelling, correlations, trending and projection. Some of the benefits of this approach include the ability to perform:

  • Monitoring and alerting
  • Visualisation, capacity planning, and performance management

This leads to what Nimble calls “Proactive wellness”, where a vast majority of cases are opened by Nimble, and they have secure, on-demand system access to resolve issues. What they really seem to be about, though, is “[l]everaging pervasive network connectivity and big data analytics to automate support and enable cloud-based management”. They use HP Vertica as the analytics engine.

The demo looked super pretty, you can use InfoSight to assist with sizing, and overall it seemed like a pretty solid offering. I don’t think this post does enough justice to the InfoSight tool, and I heartily recommend checking out the SFD6 video and reaching out to Nimble for a demo – it’s really cool stuff. Also, the have a Peet’s machine in their kitchen. While coffee in the U.S. is pretty awful, Peet’s is kind of okay.

SFD6_Nimble_Coffee