NexGen Storage Expands Hybrid Solid State-Hard Drive Array Line

Storage start-up NexGen Storage this week expanded its line of hybrid storage arrays with two new models that combine PCIe solid state storage with spinning disks for customers with applications requiring high-performance hardware.

The expansion includes the addition of new low-capacity and high-capacity models, as well as the addition of 10-Gbit Ethernet connectivity on the existing model, giving the company a line of storage systems that provides the performance of SSDs at one-tenth the cost of an all-SSD array, said Chris McCall, vice president of marketing for the Louisville, Colo.-based vendor.

Developing high-performance storage like NexGen's n5 series is more than just adding SSDs to an array, McCall said.

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"At NexGen, we don't just add SSD to disk arrays," he said. "We put solid state technology on the PCIe bus using Fusion-io technology. That eliminates the bottleneck caused by adding SSDs, and removes the need to use disk slots to add more SSDs."

In addition to the OEM relationship with Salt Lake City-based Fusion-io, the best-known developer of PCIe-based solid state storage technology, the two companies also cooperate in joint field marketing of NexGen's products, McCall said.

NexGen was founded in 2009 by some of the original founders of storage vendor LeftHand Networks, which in 2008 was acquired by Hewlett-Packard. Its first array, the n5-100, featured a total of 32 TBs of raw capacity, including 1.28 TBs of solid state storage.

New this week from NexGen is the entry-level n5-50, which features 16 TBs of raw capacity, including 770 GBs of solid state storage. The company also unveiled the n5-150, which features 48 TBs of raw capacity, including 2.4 TBs of solid state storage.

All three models take up 3U of rack space, and include eight Gbit Ethernet and four 10-Gbit Ethernet ports. The n5-50 lists for $55,000, the n5-100 lists for $88,000 and the n5-150 lists for $108,000.

McCall compared the n5-150 at $108,000 list to an all-SSD array with 48 TBs of solid state storage from vendors such as Summit, N.J.-based WhipTail Technologies, which can cost up to $750,000 to provide the same approximate random-read and write-performance of 100,000 to 200,000 IOs per second.

NEXT: Where The NexGen Performance Comes From

The NexGenn5 storage systems get their performance from the company's dynamic data placement technology which brings new data into the PCIe solid state tier and then moves part to spinning disk, McCall said.

"Dynamic data placement tracks application performance," he said. "When you set up a volume, it includes setting up how fast the user wants an app to go. As the app runs, our technology track the actual performance and adjusts which data tier it uses. It's like pressing or letting up on the gas pedal in a car to maintain speed."

Dynamic data placement carves up the n5 storage systems by an application's performance as well as by its capacity, McCall said. "So customers know their apps will run just like they specified," he said.

NexGen has a strong channel focus, and is working with a limited number of solution providers per sales region to avoid saturation of the channel, McCall said. The company currently has one distributor, Annapolis Junction, Md.-based Promark Technology. NexGen is already ahead of its plan to recruit 50 North American channel partners to its Profit Advantage Insight and Deals (PAID) program, he said.

NexGen's n5 series of storage systems offers customers a very nice quality of service, said Frank Leonard, managing partner at Leonard-McDowell, a Zionsville, Ind.-based solution provider and partner to several smaller startup storage companies including NexGen.

"NexGen offers the ability to customize performance based on the application," Leonard said. "So if it's a critical application, we can make sure it gets critical performance when it's needed. It's a real nice differentiator."

Leonard said NexGen has also turned out to be a very good channel-focused vendor partner. "They've helped out a lot in working with our customers, and recently sponsored us at the VMware Users Group meeting in Indianapolis."

It is not always easy to talk to customers about technology from relatively new companies like NexGen, Leonard said.

"It can be a challenge to get customers to embrace their strategy," he said. "But once we get a customer win, the customer is satisfied."