Last week, SolidFire Inc, a startup in the “all-flash array” sector of the storage market announced a further $82 million in funding for the company, bringing their total investment to date to $150 million. The new funds will be used for further expansion of the company’s business. As well as raising money, two new hardware node options were announced. SolidFire systems are constructed from multiple nodes, joined together to create a scale-out storage system, where disparate node types can all exist within the same configuration. The new nodes (SF2405 & SF4805) are aimed at providing a lower price point for new customers, increasing the potential market for SolidFire by delivering 4-node systems for under $100,000. Previously this entry point was around $300,000 for an entry-level system.
The new hardware gains a new nomenclature; the SF2405 is build from 240GB drives and delivers 50,000 IOPS (emphasis on my text to explain the naming). The SF4805 is therefore built from 480GB drives and delivers the same 50,000 IOPS throughput capability. At first glance the new hardware looks like it simply replaces the previous SF3010 & SF6010 models, however system capacities are slightly different. The new models provide for capacity “multipliers”, units of 240GB, 480GB and 960GB, which presumably means we’ll see a refresh of the SF9010 at some time soon too. The hardware specs indicate that the change is more than just capacity; the new systems use slightly lower spec processors and consume on average much less power, which becomes a critical metric in a scale out system that runs into tens or hundreds of nodes. Systems are still based predominantly on the iSCSI protocol, with Fibre Channel delivered through a separate dedicated node (paired for resiliency).
SolidFire aren’t the only vendor to start offering lower entry point hardware. HP recently introduced the HP 3PAR StoreServ 7200, providing all-flash storage for a starting point of $35,000. EMC offer a “starter” X-Brick for their XtremIO platform that offers 13 drives as a base configuration. We also need to remember that many vendors are looking to kill off “the SAN” altogether (the likes of Nutanix, SimpliVity and VMware), so any option that retains customers on dedicated storage has to be explored.
Getting back to the original design principles of SolidFire, the idea of smaller entry point options seems to fly in the face of deploying a highly scalable storage infrastructure. I put this point to Jay Prassl, VP for Marketing at SolidFire. He was at pains to point out that offering a lower entry point for customers had nothing to do with delivering “islands” of storage, but all about providing access to a wider base of customers who can then grow from the entry-point systems over time. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, the SolidFire architecture allows new and potentially dissimilar hardware to be added to a configuration so customers who started with the original hardware can simply add in the new nodes and have their data and performance load balanced automatically.
The Architect’s View
SolidFire have a compelling architecture and the new hardware shows incremental improvement in features that are important for delivering storage at scale. Key features are however, delivered in software and we will no doubt hear soon about the next generation of Element OS, the software running the SolidFire Systems. The company are quoting growth figures of 54% for the last quarter and everything points to a strong future. I continue to be positive on the company and their products.
- Architecting IT Posts referencing SolidFire
- SolidFire Releases Element OS Version 6
- SolidFire Secures $82 Million in Series D Funding Round (SolidFire Press Release, 7 October 2014)
- SolidFire Broadens Market Reach Delivering New Scale-Out All-Flash Platforms With Guaranteed Performance Below $100K (SolidFire Press Release, 7 October 2014)
- SolidFire System Specifications (SolidFire Website)