SolidFire Rolls Out High-Performance SSD Cloud Storage

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SolidFire is rolling out the first all-SSD storage system just for cloud providers, with guaranteed performance and firm SLAs in the cloud.  The company’s offering has moved into general availability, and its first public customers include ViaWest, DataBarracksCloud Sigma and Calligo. Is this going to rewrite the cloud storage game? The company and its customers think so.

SolidFire was founded in 2009 by former Rackspace executive Dave Wright, and has about 75 employees, expected to grow to 80 by the end of the year. Its product allows cloud providers to offer quality of service (QoS), scalability, and reliable performance. Partners include Citrix, OpenStack, Arista Networks, Canonical, OnApp, Tier 3, VMware. SolidFire uses Dell as its OEM manufacturer.

SolidFire makes an all SSD storage system just for cloud providers with the ability to offer firm service level agreements (SLAs) and guaranteed QoS.

“Predictable performance equals a predictable customer experience.” says Jay Prassl, SolidFire’s CMO. “My goal is to provide the most predictable cloud on the planet.” The company describes itself as built around a problem: How do you offer high-performance block storage solutions in a profitable manner?

Addressing ‘Noisy Neighbors’

Its answer is providing an all solid state solution that provides fine grain QoS control for writing firm performance SLAs, increasing VM density (up to 216 virtual machines per rack unit), and the ability to eliminate noisy neighbors.  It offers in-line data reduction and up to 85 percent utilization, so a provider can use more of the system than before.

“This is a fully automated storage environment with REST-based API for complete control,” said Prassl. “You can extend the performance knob to a customer. And you’re able to deliver that technology below the $1 per IOP range, below the $4 GB range.”

“This is a huge opportunity for the cloud service providers who only host about 10% of the compute that is possible today,” Prassl continues. “On the left hand side, you see test/dev/backup/archive – which all have low performance sensitivity. But what about apps like Oracle and SAP? SolidFire allows them to bring a high performance app to the cloud.”

The company says Solidfire gets rid of noisy neighbor problems when customers on shared resources start stepping on top of one another.

In terms of competition, the company sees EMC as its biggest rival, but also insists that it offers more scalability than SSD players like Nimble, Violin, and Pure.” SolidFire can achieve a much larger pool of iops and capacity than others,” says Prassl.

ViaWest Sees QoS Benefits

Managed hosting provider ViaWest has tested the product and is about to go live soon. In Solidfire, it’s moving from a dedicated array to shared storage.

“The QoS solves the dilemma of ‘can we trust a shared platform’,” says Matt Wallace, Director of Cloud Strategy for ViaWest. “It found that while compute and memory was really well regulated for a lot of cloud, i/o wasn’t –  with SoldiFire,  they can scale up, burst and scale up iops on the volume.”

“The secret sauce is the guaranteed QoS – getting away from the noisy neighbor,” said Wallace. The company looked at other providers, the early movers like Amazon and Rackspace’s shared network drive, and found that among the competitors, this level of QoS wasn’t available.

“In AWS’ early days there were no noisy neighbors. As the service grew, it became a problem,” said Wallace.

While this solution can be a little bit more expensive in terms of customer acquisition, the big X factor for ViaWest may be the amount of compression. There’s caution on whether they can count on those ratios, if an 8:1  ratio holds out, they can offer on a price point of fiber channel SAN with guaranteed QoS.

DataBarracks Expands Services

DataBarracks is another interesting customer use case.  Data Barracks is based in the UK, and hosts about 10 petabytes of  company backups. Founded 10 years ago as a managed backup company, DataBarracksd has recently started looking at other potential services and found that olidFire enabled it to move into other things, such as hosting primary applications in addition to backups.

The company initially started with a smaller platform to test the waters. It eventually moved up, impressed with the ability to give QoS to enterprises, and the ability to carve up a section of storage and volume, and deduplication and replication capabilities.

“It’s given us a lot of i/o control,” said Oliver Mather, Technical Director from Data Barracks. “SolidFire is rewriting how storage is traditionally architected. With the deduplication, and thin provisioning, you can actually get a lot closer to spinning disk prices. It’s very cost comparable on a price per gig.” “[This is] a foundation for offering a lot of flexibility; we can allow clients to see capacity and I/O.

DataBarracks has two data centers, which are nuclear bunkers converted to data centers. These are tier4 facilities shielded against magnetic pulses. Its customer base represents a large cross section, including legal firms and hedge funds. It has a whole plethora of agreements in place with fuel providers in case of emergencies.

About the Author

Jason Verge is an Editor/Industry Analyst on the Data Center Knowledge team with a strong background in the data center and Web hosting industries. In the past he’s covered all things Internet Infrastructure, including cloud (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS), mass market hosting, managed hosting, enterprise IT spending trends and M&A. He writes about a range of topics at DCK, with an emphasis on cloud hosting.

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