Nimbus Data Intros Low-Cost All-Flash Arrays For Less Than Hybrid Array, Plans '14 IPO

Nimbus Data on Monday unveiled new models of its all-flash arrays, calling them the first of any flash arrays to feature low-cost 1x-nanometer flash technology to bring the cost per usable GB of capacity to as low as 78 cents.

The new arrays also feature a software enhancement that doubles the performance of Nimbus Data's previous models by treating random data writes as sequential writes, said Thomas Isakovich, founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based storage vendor.

Isakovich also said that Nimbus Data, an early pioneer in the all-flash array market, enjoyed a $50-million revenue run rate for the first half of 2013.

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Nimbus Data unveiled two new models of its Gemini all-flash arrays.

The first, the F400, can be configured with up to 48 TB of capacity per 2U shelf after deduplication, or up to a total of 385 TB, Isakovich said. It includes Fibre Channel and 10-Gbit Ethernet connectivity for use in NAS or in Fibre Channel or iSCSI SAN environments. Pricing starts of less than $60,000.

The second, the F600, supports InfiniBand and 40-Gbit Ether connectivity, with a starting price of less than $80,000.

Both models scale in both performance and capacity with additional nodes, Isakovich said.

En Pointe Technologies in the last couple weeks just signed up with Nimbus Data as its first all-flash array partner after considering a couple other startups as well as more established vendors like EMC and NetApp, said Herb Hogue, senior vice president of services for the Gardena, Calif.-based solution provider.

"For pure flash storage with high I/O performance, Nimbus was at the top," Hogue said.

It was important for En Pointe to get into the all-flash array business, Hogue said.

"We see the storage industry in a state of flux," he said. "Everybody's moving from spinning disk to flash something. I won't say flash memory, or SSDs, because there are so many ways to do this."

En Pointe sees big potential for all-flash arrays in certain applications such as databases where performance is key, Hogue said. And while Nimbus Data has one of the highest-performing offerings in this market, its arrays will see stiff competition from tier-one vendors as they fill out their own all-flash storage strategies.

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EMC and NetApp have a lot of features and software beyond any particular storage technology, and the newer vendors, while providing performance, are not able to match those features, En Pointe's Hogue said.

"Nimbus and the others have made a Ferrari, but you are not going to take the kids to a soccer game in a Ferrari," he said.

Nimbus Data's new fourth-generation all-flash arrays are the industry's first to feature 1x-nanometer MLC flash technology, Nimbus' Isakovich said.

1x-nanometer refers to the production of semiconductors using a manufacturing process of 10 to 19 nanometers. The Nimbus Data arrays use 19-nanometer MLC flash, which results in a 35-percent cut in the cost-per-Gbyte ratio.

"It's very cost-effective," he said. "But despite the use of low-cost flash, we still offer the same 10-year warranty as our previous generations. And we remain the only company to offer 1x-nanometer flash while offering a 10-year warranty."

The new models also offer double the performance of earlier models via a software enhancement that turns random writes into sequential writes, Isakovich said.

The use 1x-nanometer MLC flash redefines the economics of all-flash arrays vs. that of hybrid arrays, which feature both flash and spinning disk storage, Isakovich said.

"Hybrid array vendors could in the past argue that all-flash storage is expensive," he said. "However, this has all changed. All-flash storage can achieve cost-parity with hybrid arrays."

Nimbus Data currently has about 500 all-flash array installations among about 350 different customers, and it is on track for an IPO some time in 2014, Isakovich said. About 80 percent of the company's revenue comes via solution providers, with the remaining 20 percent coming from a handful of larger customers, which the company treats more like OEMs, he said.