Tag Archives: nimble storage

Why Nimble?

This is the first installment of a series by Systems Team Lead Matt Peabody to begin to answer a question he hears all the time: “Why vendor X?”

I’m kicking off this series with a vendor we have been supporting since they had relatively low name recognition, Nimble Storage.  Nimble Storage is a hybrid SAN vendor that combines spinning disk for write capacity and flash for read acceleration.

Nimble Storage was brought to us by one of their sales engineers that had worked with us in the past.  He described their product as the next big thing in storage.  After discussing the architecture, feature set, roadmap, and history of Nimble Storage with that sales engineer, we were sold.

There were a few things that stood out for us and continue to be items that distance Nimble Storage from other vendors:

  1. CASL (Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout)
    Nimble Storage’s CASL architecture was built from the ground up to take advantage of the shift in CPU architectures to multiple cores and not rely on disk spindles for speed.  This is the first architecture we had seen where the array was not spindle-bound, but CPU bound.  This allows Nimble Storage to use slower spinning disks for writes and use all of the flash in their array for read performance.  The file system design also helps them to take extremely thin, non-impacting snapshots, migrate hot data to flash in real time, and use commodity hardware, all without sacrificing performance.  These all combine to make a very affordable and reliable array with extremely fast response times.
  2. InfoSight
    Infosight is a Big Data cloud that collects real time information and coalesces it into easy-to-read and understandable reports about the health of all the arrays that Nimble Storage has ever sold.  When customers ask how well the arrays actually perform, we can show people real-world performance statistics on existing installs and get them in touch with existing Nimble Storage customers.  We as partners rely on this data as much as our customers to recommend upgrades and ensure the health of our installs.
  3.  Support
    A recent customer had an issue with a failover during a new install.  Where other vendors may have quit citing an issue with the Fiber Channel infrastructure, Nimble had us pull logs and send that data to them.  After reading through the logs, they found the switches did not support the proper revision in Fiber Channel specification.  This was added to Nimble Storage’s code and will be addressed in the next firmware release.  Nimble Storage also aggregates the analytics from their entire install base into InfoSight to give customers proactive warnings if they will run into a known issue, and then recommends a fix for them.  Nimble Storage support continues to impress both our engineers and our customers.
  4.  Simplicity
    Nimble Storage keeps things simple.  Their pricing is array(s) + maintenance.  Maintenance is a simple percentage of the array and gets customers support, new firmware, hardware replacement, and any new features that come out in newer code versions.  Their arrays come in small configuration bundles that are easy to understand.   Nimble Storage’s GUI and command line management is intuitive and easy to use.  When we show most customers the GUI, they reply with “That’s it?” and that’s a question we like to hear.

Nimble Storage continues to be a strong partner for us at High Point Networks.  Now that I’ve answered “Why Nimble?” we’ll continue next time with “Why Veeam?”

Array Performance Getting You Down? InfoSight Might Have the Answer.

In case you missed it, Nimble was named a “visionary” for the second consecutive year in Gartner’s November 20, 2014 Magic Quadrant for General-Purpose Disk Arrays report. Gartner’s report positioned Nimble for the “completeness” of its vision and its ability to execute on that vision.

We, at Nimble, believe that a key reason we were positioned as a visionary by Gartner is InfoSight™, the engine that monitors all Nimble arrays collectively and individually from the cloud. InfoSight comes free with every Nimble support contract and has allowed our customers to enjoy greater than 99.999 percent uptime, the gold standard for system availability.

InfoSight is the brainchild of Larry Lancaster, our chief data scientist, a self-proclaimed data nerd and one of Nimble’s resident visionaries. We have a few around here, among them cofounder Umesh Maheshwari, the creator of CASL™, our Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout architecture, the foundation of every Nimble solution, and the reason our arrays can intelligently allocate flash as applications need it.

I wrote about Larry last September in this blog, Nimble Storage’s Chief Data Scientist is the Wizard of the Next Big Thing. Larry joined Nimble in 2011, charged with applying his Big Data expertise to the problem of storage management. Larry created InfoSight, and built it into Nimble’s first arrays. The timing is important: The more data InfoSight gathers, the smarter it becomes. To date, InfoSight has gathered the equivalent of thousands of years of real-world usage, allowing it to foresee problems long before they can bring systems down. And, to recommend specific fixes.

Here are some real-life examples of the ways in which InfoSight has helped Nimble customers to keep arrays running in peak working condition:

  • InfoSight’s data protection planning capabilities provided the customer with the bandwidth requirements needed for replication on a per volume basis. Now the customer knows that, he is replicating, on average, approximately 105Mbps of data. That bit of information allows his team to make a choice: To forego replication for non-essential data, or increase WAN bandwidth.
  • InfoSight’s actionable upgrade recommendations helped improve sluggish performance. InfoSight determined the customer was experiencing CPU saturation and recommended an optimization change that could reduce the bottleneck. Eventually, upgraded his hardware to optimize the environment.
  • InfoSight gave a customer the needed information to resolve a bandwidth issue for data replication. The problem sounded complex: The customer has several volumes, and directions and arrays replicating to and from two arrays of interest, and replication traffic was sharing bandwidth with other traffic. InfoSight determined the required bandwidth to ensure timely replication.

Without InfoSight, some of these problems would likely have taken hours, days – even weeks – to identify and resolve. The time spent on fixes would have cost those businesses countless dollars in lost productivity. For Nimble’s customers, InfoSight has become a valuable member of their IT team; a storage expert that comes free of charge with every Nimble array and won’t drink all the coffee in the break room.

By Matt Miller, InfoSight Product Marketing