Flash player: Cloud Solutions Group & Nimble Storage

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This article appeared in the February 2014 issue of CRN magazine.

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Flash player: Cloud Solutions Group & Nimble Storage
Joshua Rubens, Cloud Solutions Group

With offices in Melbourne and Sydney, Cloud Solutions Group signed up with Nimble in 2012 and hails simplicity as its key advantage, Joshua Rubens, director, Cloud Solutions Group

The storage market was changing with the advent of flash and the incumbents were not as competitive as they used to be. We had an extensive look at the emerging vendor landscape and found Nimble to be the best product by far. 

Nimble is a hybrid array -– a combination of SSD and spinning disk – that is ideal for the common workloads we see in the Australian market, such as VDI, server virtualisation, Exchange, SQL and SharePoint. So it provides the best mix of capacity and performance. The pure-play flash vendors are expensive and only address a small niche part of the market with very high-end performance requirements such as OLTP and very large database environments.

The Nimble team also comprises of many local storage industry heavyweights from vendors such as NetApp and EMC. We felt that it must be a good technology and company if that quality of people have moved there. They have also invested in a significant presence in Australia – which local clients like and need.

Nimble’s company credibility and viability was way ahead of the other start-ups. Even when we started working with them 18 months ago, they had thousands of customers all over the world, whereas the other start-ups had very few reference site clients.       

We signed up with Nimble in October 2012. We were the first in Victoria and one of the first few in Australia. Nimble do not use distribution, which we see as an advantage as we can work more closely with their team.

Business has been excellent. We have had many wins with Nimble and have trained our technical and sales teams extensively on the Nimble products and solutions. This culminated in Cloud Solutions Group winning Nimble Storage Partner of the Year award in December 2013.

We have many referenceable customer deployments, including Grant Thornton, Recoveriescorp, Servier Laboratories, Monash IVF and Pental.

Nimble’s key advantage is its simplicity. Nimble’s patented file system, CASL (Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout), is the “secret sauce”. Through the CASL architecture, Nimble has separated performance from spinning disk. CASL serialises and compresses data as it is written to the array addressing the “I/O blender” effect that applications such as SQL and VDI bring. Without getting into too much technical detail, this allows Nimble to deliver a huge amount of performance from a very small footprint. This also means there is no more concept of LUNs and other complexities inherent to legacy vendor arrays. The Nimble arrays are extremely easy to manage and customers do not require internal storage experts to administer and manage the solution. In addition, by having both SSD and spinning disk, it addresses both performance and capacity needs, as opposed to flash-only vendors that mainly solve performance issues only.

We looked at the competitors. Pure Storage is a good solution but is expensive, not fully featured in terms of software functionality and focuses on very niche use cases. NetApp was great six or seven years ago; although they now have flash solutions, they are not designed from ground up to utilise flash so are inefficient. Tintri has little to no Australian presence and addresses VMware data stores only. It does not have the referenceability and full functionality of Nimble. My comments on Violin are similar to Pure Storage, but I’m also concerned about the company’s future due to poor stock performance. IBM has way too many solutions and does not have a coherent strategy or channel model that we can determine.

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