It’s been a busy few weeks for flash vendor SolidFire, being recognized as a visionary in Gartner’s first Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays, as well as getting a top score for the research company’s 2014 Critical Capabilities Study2. Then it unveiled two all-flash storage arrays (SF2405 and SF4805) which ‘dramatically decrease the cost of entry for the industry’s only cloud-scale All-Flash Array.’ To top it all off, SolidFire also announced it had secured $82 million in new funding (bringing its total funding to $150 million) that it plans to use to extend its global reach and advance its all-flash storage architecture.
Gartner said the huge disparity between CPU and disk performance over the last decade has fueled the massive growth of solid-state arrays. ‘Over the last decade, CPU performance has improved by an order of magnitude, while the performance of HDD within general-purpose storage arrays stagnated, an increasingly accentuating divergence. SSAs have corrected this imbalance by temporarily satiating the demand for storage performance. This has led to the quick and successful adoption of SSA, evidenced by the fact that the total revenue for SSA in 2013 was $667 million, with a huge year-over-year growth of 182%.’
EMC, IBM and Pure Storage made up the Leaders category, with HP and NetApp in the Challengers’ quadrant, and Cisco and Huawei relegated to the Niche Players. In addition to SolidFire, the Visionaries segment included Violin Memory, Kaminario, Nimbus Data and Skyera.
It’s GMQ report card on SolidFire noted that it is an emerging company yet to be profitable, with a product that has been in general availability for less than two years. It’s strengths included: the ability to deliver high scalability in capacity and performance makes it an attractive platform for running next-generation cloud and big data workloads; a high degree of emphasis on keeping costs low through usage of cMLC-based PC SSDs and no-charge data reduction features, such as compression and deduplication that are always turned on, and operating in-line; and the QoS and multitenancy allow customers to run multiple workloads in isolation with guaranteed performance, eliminating disruption or degradation from unwieldy workloads.
The buyer-beware Cautions’ list included: the initial acquisition costs are high, even for SolidFire’s low-end platforms, given that there needs to be at least four nodes in a cluster; it has limited field services and support personnel outside the U.S. and the U.K., and, given that a high portion of its revenue is generated from a direct sales force, enterprise customers need to be cautious regarding the availability of reseller partners for implementation and support.
Starting at 35TB of effective capacity and 200,000 predictable IOPS, all below $100,000, the SF2405 (Oct. 31 GA) lowers the entry point into SolidFire product family. The company said the SF4805 (mid-Nov. GA) doubles the density of the SF2405 while providing 44% more storage capacity at a 30% lower cost than the previous SF3010, delivering SolidFire’s lowest $/GB, with a starting 4-node footprint providing 69TB of effective capacity and 200,000 predictable IOPS.
“This allows customers to get into the platform much easier than they could before,” said Jay Prassl, VP of Marketing, SolidFire. The company’s architectural design means both nodes can be used for new SolidFire clusters, or added to existing SolidFire clusters to increase capacity and performance cost-effectively, he told IT Trends & Analysis.
In the Next Generation Data Centers (NGDC), “[flash] performance is merely table-stakes – whereas such things as simplicity, efficiency, scalability, automation, and integration will determine the winning and losing vendors,” noted Mark Peters, Senior Analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group, after SolidFire’s first Analyst Day at the end of February. “CSPs were some of the first disciples of this new mantra; now that checkbooks are being opened for such abilities across the IT board, SolidFire is happy to point out its ability to play.”
His boss, ESG founder and Senior Analyst Steve Duplessie shouted the company’s praises in a canned comment announcing Carbon, the 6th release of SolidFire’s OS, which was announced in March. “SolidFire attacks what to me is the most glaring missing element in tomorrow’s enterprise data center – Quality of Service.” As more and more applications are delivered from shared storage infrastructure – performance predictability and scale have become paramount, he stated. “That’s been the problem with traditional storage architectures in the modern era of infrastructure virtualization.”
Prassl said SolidFire’s software-based architecture allows it to validate and integrate the latest flash technology quickly, and its mixed-node scale-out architecture allows customers to buy just what they need to start, and incorporate the latest flash technology seamlessly in the years to come. “With SolidFire the issue of obsolescence never arises.”
“We have allowed customers to get into our platform very easily. And now they can scale that platform.” Providing investment protection is an extremely powerful tool for SolidFire, and important for customers, he added.