Startup Nimble Storage Puts Primary, Backup Storage In One Appliance

Storage startup Nimble Storage this month unveiled its first product, a storage array combining high-performance Flash memory and low-cost SATA technologies to handle primary, backup, and disaster recovery tasks with a single device.

Nimble's CS-series of storage appliances is based on the San Jose, Calif.-based company's Cache-Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) architecture, which compresses data as it is inputted using variable-sized data blocks.

Those variable-sized data blocks can then be combined into larger data sets and written to Flash memory for high-performance access. By combining data into large sequential data blocks, the performance when writing to Flash memory and then to SATA drives is increased, said Dan Leary, vice president of marketing for Nimble Storage.

All data is written to the SATA drives, Leary said. CASL also tracks which storage is "hottest," or accessed most frequently, and keeps a copy in Flash memory for quick access, he said.

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The SATA drives also keep up to 90 days of data snapshots for recovering data which has been changed without the need for a separate disk-based backup device, he said.

Also included is the ability to replicate storage to another Nimble appliance in an offsite data center over a WAN, Leary said.

"Today, replication has to be to another Nimble box," he said. "In the future, we will work with cloud storage providers to provide storage clouds for customers who don't want to manage a second Nimble box."

The Nimble Storage appliances come in two versions. The CS220 includes 9 TBs of primary storage capacity and 108 TBs of backup capacity, while the CS240 provides double the amount of both primary and backup capacity. The CS220 also includes about 750 GBs of Flash memory compared to 1.5 TBs for the CS240.

The CS-Series appliances are easy to set up and use, with basic installations requiring only three steps, Leary said.

"We customize the block size and caching policy behind the scenes," he said. "Customers don't need to tell us the details. They just tell us the types of applications they are running, and we provide the best practice. If the customers are happy with our configuration, they can just click 'OK,' or they can do their own configuration."

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Nimble Storage was founded by two former executives of Data Domain, which last year was acquired by EMC. Those executives, Nimble CEO Varun Mehta and Nimble CTO Umesh Maheshwari, tried to duplicate the success of Data Domain, which started by developing a new file system bundled with its own hardware, Mehta said.

The success of Data Domain was the key reason for Blue Chip Tek, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based solution provider, to sign on with Nimble storage, said Jason Geis, principal at Blue Chip Tek.

Geis said his company, which works with most of the major storage, networking,and virtualization vendors, likes the end-to-end storage message that Nimble Storage presents to customers.

"There are big guys out there with great storage and backup stories," Geis said. "But Nimble is able to do fast storage, backup, deduplication, and compression all in one purporse-built solution. Data Domain did purpose-built solutions. NetApp's OnTap is a purpose-built operating system. That's a compelling message to customers."

The ability to target customer pain points with a unique product that combines a wide range of technologies is something customers will listen to, Geis said. "In today's market, customers need a solid offering, especially from a startup," he said. "A lot of startups are not around any more."

Pricing for the CS-Series starts at under $3 per GB of primary storage and under 25 cents per GB of secondary storage.

They are expected to be generally available starting in August exclusively through authorized Nimble Storage channel partners.