The next all-Flash product in my review list is SolidFire. Immediately, the niche that SolidFire is trying to carve out is obvious. It’s not for regular commercial customers. It is meant for Cloud Service Providers, because the features and the technology that they have innovated are quite cloud-intended.
Are they solid (pun intended)? Well, if they have managed to secure a Series B funding of USD$25 million (total of USD$37 million overall) from VCs such as NEA and Valhalla, and also angel investors such as Frank Slootman (ex-Data Domain CEO) and Greg Papadopoulus(ex-Sun Microsystems CTO), then obviously there is something more than meets the eye.
The one thing I got while looking up SolidFire is there is probably a lot of technology and innovation behind their Nodes and their Element OS. They hold their cards very, very close to their chest, and I couldn’t not get much good technology related information from their website or in Google. But here’s a look of how the SolidFire is like:
The SolidFire only has one product model, and that is the 1U SF3010. The SF3010 has 10 x 2.5″ 300GB SSDs giving it a raw total of 3TB per 1U. The minimum configuration is 3 nodes, and it scales to 100 nodes. The reason for starting with 3 nodes is of course, for redundancy. Each SF3010 node has 8GB NVRAM and 72GB RAM and sports 2 x 10GbE ports for iSCSI connectivity, especially when the core engineering talents were from LeftHand Networks. LeftHand Networks product is now HP P4000. There is no Fibre Channel or NAS front end to the applications.
Each node runs 2 x Intel Xeon 2.4GHz 6-core CPUs. The 1U height is important to the cloud provider, as the price of floor space is an important consideration.
Aside from the SF3010 storage nodes, the other important ingredient is their SolidFire Element OS.
Cloud storage needs to be available. The SolidFire Helix Self-Healing data protection is a feature that is capable of handling multiple concurrent failures across all levels of their storage. Data blocks are replicated randomly but intelligently across all storage nodes to ensure that the failure or disruption of access to a particular data block is circumvented with another copy of the data block somewhere else within the cluster. The idea is not new, but effective because solutions such as EMC Centera and IBM XIV employ this idea in their data availability. But still, the ability for self-healing ensures a very highly available storage where data is always available.
To address the efficiency of storage, having 3TB raw in the SF3010 is definitely not sufficient. Therefore, the Element OS always have thin provision, real-time compression and in-line deduplication turned on. These features cannot be turned off and operate at a fine-grained 4K blocks. Also important is the intelligence to reclaim of zeroed blocks, no-reservation, and no data movement in these innovations. This means that there will be no I/O impact, as claimed by SolidFire.
But the one feature that differentiates SolidFire when targeting storage for Cloud Service Providers is their guaranteed volume level Quality of Service (QOS). This is important and SolidFire has positioned their QOS settings into an advantage. As best practice, Cloud Service Providers should always leverage the QOS functionality to improve their storage utilization
The QOS has:
- Minimum IOPS – Lower IOPS means lower performance priority (makes good sense)
- Maximum IOPS
- Burst IOPS – for those performance spikes moments
- Maximum and Burst MB/sec
Together with the Storage Nodes and the Element OS, the whole package is aimed towards a more significant storage platform for Cloud Service Providers(CSPs). Storage has always been a tricky component in Cloud Computing (despite what all the storage vendors might claim), but SolidFire touts that their solution focuses on what matters most for CSPs.
CSPs would want to maximize their investment without losing their edge in the cloud offerings to their customers. SolidFire lists their benefits in these 3 areas:
The edge in cloud storage is definitely solid for SolidFire. Their ability to leverage on their position and steering away from other all-Flash vendors’ battlezone could all make sense, as they aim to gain market share in the Cloud Service Provider space. I only wish they can share more about their technology online.
Fortunately, I found a video by SolidFire’s CEO, Dave Wright which gives a great insight about SolidFire’s technology. Have a look (it’s almost 2 hour long):
[2 hours later]: Phew, I just finished the video above and the technology is solid. Just to summarize,
- No RAID (which is a Godsend for service providers)
- Aiming for USD5.00 or less per Gigabyte (a good number!)
- General availability in Q1 2012
Lots of confidence about the superiority of their technology, as portrayed by their CEO, Dave Wright.
Solid? Yes, Solid!