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SolidFire Adds Fiber Channel, Cloud Connectivity to Flash Storage

SolidFire, a startup that provides flash storage for enterprises and cloud service providers, on Thursday said the next release of its Element OS that powers its arrays will fill some key gaps.

The new platform, called Carbon, will gain Fiber Channel connectivity and real-time replication to public clouds.

The company is one of many new providers of storage arrays that support flash-based solid state drives, which are gaining ground in organizations that require higher performance than traditional disk drives provide.

A relatively new entrant, SolidFire argues it offers a flash-based platform best suited for multi-tenant architectures with software designed to ensure performance doesn't degrade due to so-called "noisy-neighbors." The company emphasizes its scale-out architecture, high-performance virtualization and ability to provide guaranteed-performance quality of service.

While enterprise flash-based storage has taken off in recent years, it's still a relatively young market, said Forrester Research analyst Henry Baltazar, who estimates it accounts for less than $1 billion of the $30 billion external storage industry. "Enterprise players such as Violin, IBM FlashSystems and PureStorage have a head start relative to SolidFire -- and XtremIO has the benefit of EMC's powerful sales capabilities," he said. "That being said, the entire all-flash array space is still in the early stages. We are literally at mile one of a marathon."

Baltazar said SolidFire's software upgrade should improve the appeal of its flash storage platform to enterprises and cloud service providers. "The replication fills a major gap since customers require this to protect against disasters and site outages," Baltazar said. Likewise, the 16 Gbps Fiber Channel support will let enterprises connect it to their existing storage networks.

Today SolidFire only supports 10 Gbps iSCSI, which is also widely used, but Fiber Channel remains more prevalent. "If you want to take advantage of the scale of the guaranteed performance and the automation of our storage system, you can do so without the need to move onto iSCSI and leverage the Fiber Channel protocols that enterprises use today," said Jay Prassl, SolidFire's VP of marketing. Most large organizations still rely on Fiber Channel and are reluctant to add iSCSI to their infrastructures, he said.

The mixed cluster support allows organizations to combine different storage nodes within a single cluster. That's important, he said, because of the quick shifts in flash technology both in terms of rapidly declining costs and increases in capacity that are enabling organizations to add more nodes. The software will support multiple nodes, irrespective of capacity and protocols, and treat them as one, Prassl said. It will also support the addition of new nodes as SolidFire releases them.

"We will bring a new platform to the market at some point and customers can integrate it directly into the existing clusters that they have," he said.

Real-time replication will allow organizations to use the company's arrays for disaster recovery by creating additional remote copies of data without adding additional third-party hardware or software, the company said. Administrators can pair each cluster with as many as four other clusters to bi-directionally replicate data.

SolidFire says Carbon lets enterprises and cloud service providers back up thousands of hosts using its new native snapshot capability and can backup to any Amazon Web Services S3 or OpenStack SWIFT-compatible API. Customers can back up up volumes on their SolidFire arrays to any object system that supports those API calls.

Carbon will be available next quarter.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/13/2014 at 1:07 PM


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