HPE Primera: New Storage Platform Combines Best Of Nimble, 3Par Storage With InfoSight AI Tech

HPE says its new HPE Primera all-flash storage array combines the simplicity of its Nimble platform with the mission-critical capabilities of 3Par, and comes integrated with InfoSight predictive analytics that can identify and help mitigate potential issues.


Hewlett Packard Enterprise on Tuesday introduced a new storage platform, the HPE Primera, which the company said combines the InfoSight-based artificial intelligence technology from its Nimble family of arrays with the reliability of its 3Par array family.

The all-flash HPE Primera, previously code-named "Merlin," leverages HPE's InfoSight predictive analytics technology to take away the complexity that continues to challenge enterprise IT infrastructures, said Sandeep Singh, vice president for HPE storage.

HPE Primera was unveiled at this week’s HPE Discover conference.

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"That complexity leads to a lot more of that manual tuning and administration that's required," Singh told a small press gathering before the Discover conference. "That is most acute when you look at supporting mission-critical application workloads. The enterprise and the developers and the innovators are really requiring that the agility of cloud, but the reliability characteristics tend to be different. So customers are not able to just deploy their critical apps in a public cloud."

HPE Primera combines agility and resiliency for mission-critical applications with a system that can manage itself and be able to predict and prevent issues beyond the wall of storage, Singh said.

That includes the simplicity of HPE's Nimble storage line, its InfoSight predictive analytics technology, and the mission-critical heritage of its 3Par storage line, he said.

"[Primera] is basically combining those overall IP assets available to us and delivering the world's most intelligent storage for mission-critical applications," he said.

Primera was built to deliver three unique experiences, Singh said.

The first is an on-demand experience that ensures infrastructure and data are instantly available with consumer-grade simplicity, along with automation and full predictive capabilities.

The second is application-aware resiliency that is able to see beyond the storage layer, combined with analytics to prevent issues from occurring.

The third is predictive acceleration which combines a massively parallel architecture with embedded real-time analytics to ensure that applications and business processes are fast all of the time.

Singh said HPE Primera was designed with simplicity in mind. It can be installed in under 20 minutes, with storage provisioned within seconds, he said.

Phill Gilbert, head of product management for HPE storage, said HPE Primera comes in a 4U chassis with space for up to 24 SSDs, with 16 SAS-based slots and eight NVMe-based slots.

The hybrid nature comes from the architecture, which allows Primera to drive extremely high performance from SAS-based SSDs, Gilbert said.

"If we can drive that performance and keep an incredibly mature, enterprise-grade drive media and connectivity type, then that's a bit of an advantage for us," he said. "As NVMe becomes more available, lower in cost, and more mature, that gives us the ability to offer an expansion enclosure that expands with NVMe-over-Fabric as well."

The NVMe slots can also be used for storage-class memory such as Intel Optane for further performance boosts.

One way customers may use the Primera's hybrid SAS/NVMe media configuration is to put metadata in the higher-performance storage-class memory devices, Gilbert said.

However, he said, the decision as to what type of data sits in which tier is automated. "Customers don't want to tier data, which means making a decision about where the data is stored," he said.

Inside the Primera system are four nodes, each with two Intel Xeon processors. Each node has its own power supply with its own backup battery. The maximum memory that can be initially purchased is 2 terabytes.

"So from a density perspective, the amount of physical hardware crammed into 4U is pretty staggering," Gilbert said. "And that means that, from a performance perspective, this thing is going to be the highest performance-density platform that's out there."

With the introduction of Primera, HPE will continue to offer Nimble and 3Par, Singh said.

"Primera will become the 'lead-with' portion of the portfolio for your mission-critical application workloads," he said. "It can also become the 'lead-with' for large-scale consolidation so the business can move forward with mission-critical applications as well."

Nimble, on the other hand, remains HPE's primary lead-in for small and medium enterprise mission-critical workloads, as well as for departmental workloads in larger enterprise, Singh said. 3Par will also remain available as the platform of choice for many customers, he said.

However, the primary platforms offered by HPE will be Primera and Nimble, and less-so 3Par, Singh said. Singh, however, would not characterize 3Par as an end-of-life platform. "There's a long life on 3Par that's left over," he said. "We're going to continue to enhance the 3Par platform. We're going to continue to sell 3Par."

Customers can continue to buy 3Par, or move to Primera, or purchase Nimble for smaller workloads, Singh said. 3Par customers will continue to have investment protection. However, Primera will become the focus for hardware platform upgrades, he said.

HPE Primera has four unique values engineered into the platform, Singh said.

The first is global intelligence powered by HPE InfoSight, but unlike other HPE platforms that capability is not necessarily tied to the cloud, he said.

"We're taking the models that were trained in the cloud, and embedding them within Primera for real-time analytics ... so that in real-time it can understand the application workloads and their I/O profiles and detect anomalies and pinpoint the source of an issue," he said. "It can also identify in real time the optimal workload placement."

Because of its embedded InfoSight predictive analytics technology, Primera brings InfoSight to on-premises environments, even to "dark" data centers without being connected to the cloud, he said.

The second is an all-active architecture, Singh said. "At a high level, it's a massively-parallel architecture," he said. "All of the system resources are leveraged across the board for every given storage volume that supports the data."

The third is a modularized, services-centric operating system that decouples data services so customers can develop, deploy, upgrade and restart the data services separately, Singh said.

"What that means is, for the first time on the high-end part of it, the software upgrades as well as the self-install ability of this system are customer-driven operations. ... And now software upgrades are done within minutes," he said.

The fourth is "timeless storage" which means the infrastructure gets better as it ages, Singh said.

"Customers are able to continually take advantage of advances in hardware technology in terms of, for example, controller modules or back-end media," he said. "They're able to avoid forklift upgrades, and get that on-line, non-disruptive experience."

HPE Primera also comes pre-integrated with HPE Recovery Manager Central software, which provides application-aware data protection. The software is also pre-integrated with a variety of workloads so that snapshots of the application include a guaranteed recovery including the memory buffers, Singh said.

"This services-centric OS is a game-changer, and is truly unlocking the agility that we're delivering for IT," he said.

With InfoSight and other technologies, HPE is offering a 100-percent availability guarantee without customers having to sign a separate contract, Singh said.

"What that means is, if there happens to be an issue in the rare case of data unavailability, we have a real remedy for the customers," he said. "And that remedy, depending on the severity of the incident, is up to a 20-percent credit for a future purchase or upgrade. It's a real remedy that we're offering to customers."

While some customers will purchase Primera outright, others may be looking for a consumption-based model for paying for technology as it’s used. So HPE is making Primera available with HPE GreenLake, Singh said.

"Not only does it transform the technology to the consumption-based economics model, it also enables customers to get started faster with their projects. ... It becomes a fully-managed as-a-service for the customer," he said.

HPE appears to have taken the best of its 3Par and Nimble storage platforms and combined them into Primera, said Dan Molina, chief technology officer at Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider and long-time HPE channel partner.

This brings Primera several advantages over competing storage platforms, the most important of which is the ability to tie latency to the application, Molina told CRN.

"Primera includes the quality of service on a per-volume basis that 3Par offers," he said. "There are not many other storage platforms doing that. This is important for businesses who need guaranteed performance for certain applications. And it's critically important for organizations looking to maintain responsiveness for business-critical apps."

Molina said customers will also like Primera's scale-up and scale-out capabilities, as well as how its decoupled services lead to non-disruptive upgrades and a 100-percent service level agreement. "That’s huge," he said.

HPE Primera will likely be initially targeted at customers with sizeable data center environments looking to preserve the robustness of on-premises infrastructure for security and compliance while taking advantage of cloud-like agility, efficiency, and ease of use, Molina said.

"These will primarily be mid-size to large enterprises," he said. "But in the end, it depends on the performance-hungry applications customers have."

HPE Primera's built-in InfoSight technology is also very important, Molina said. "I talk a lot with customers about artificial intelligence," he said. "With InfoSight, the more data you give it, the more intelligent the platform gets."

Chris Case, president of Sequel Data Systems, an Austin, Tex.-based solution provider and long-term HPE channel partner, told CRN his company's Nimble storage business is growing strongly because of its tie to HPE InfoSight, a tie that will be important as HPE starts rolling out Primera.

HPE Primera will also be a good replacement over time for HPE 3Par storage, which has been a strong product line for years, Case said.

"But it gets hard to keep developing on an older platform," he said. "It will be good to see new products from HPE in the storage business."

Customers and channel partners will be able to start placing orders for HPE Primera in August, with shipments expected to start after then.