SolidFire Unveils SSD-Based Storage For Cloud Service Providers

Startup SolidFire plans to do its part to enhance cloud storage performance with the development of SSD storage technology combined with scale-out storage architecture.

SolidFire is developing scale-out clustered storage which allows cloud service providers to use SSD technology to overcome the performance issues caused by multiple customers storing data on the same storage infrastructures, said David Wright, CEO of the Boulder, Colo.-based startup.

Cloud storage consists of several layers, including the connection between local storage and the cloud, the bulk storage provided by such providers as Amazon and EMC Atmos, and high-performance primary storage, Wright said.

The problem with the high-performance storage layer is the fact that it is typically attached to virtual machines, he said. "When virtual machines are running in the cloud, where is their storage?" he said. "That's the space we're focusing on. Large vendors like EMC and NetApp are selling into this space, but their offerings fall short."

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Traditional storage takes a hit in performance when multiple customers attempt to use the same storage infrastructure, which is a hallmark of the service provider market, Wright said. Customers may attempt to throw more disks at traditional storage to increase performance, but end up with underutilized capacity, he said.

SolidFire's solution uses SSDs combined with real-time deduplication, compression, and thin provisioning along with a management software that allows service providers to adjust the storage for capacity or performance in real time, Wright said.

"Our goal is to maintain the right balance of capacity and performance," he said. "We let them be adjusted in real time without the need to migrate data. Just turn the knob up and down. Service providers can see the actual IOPS (I/Os per second) they are getting based on their workloads, giving the ability to offer different billing rates and different SLAs (service level agreements) based on storage tiers."

The SolidFire architecture consists of SSD-based storage nodes, each of which includes 3 TBs of raw capacity or about 12 TBs of effective capacity. Service providers start out with a minimum of three nodes clustered using 10-Gbit Ethernet.

At the minimum configuration, the architecture provides 50,000 IOPS, but it can be scaled to 100 nodes with up to 1 petabyte of capacity to hose over 100,000 tenant volumes and over 5 million IOPS, Wright said.

SolidFire is currently targeting the service provider market, particularly companies which are building large-scale Infrastructure-as-a-Service platforms, Wright said.

"We may go to the traditional VAR space someday," he said. "But today, we're seeing a blurring of the sales model where VARs are building cloud or Infrastructure-as-a-Service architectures. So this is already a channel play. We sell to large service providers who then sell capacity to their customers."

SolidFire in August will provide initial units for testing to potential service providers who sign up for its early access program, with general availability of the storage nodes planned for later this year, Wright said.