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New HPE Alletra extends cloud console to Primera, Nimble

Hewlett Packard Enterprise's new Alletra storage brand will bear striking similarity to Primera and Nimble arrays on the operating system and management front.

The path forward for many Hewlett Packard Enterprise storage customers will be the all-NVMe Alletra system that the company recently launched with a new cloud-based data services console.

But enterprises that use HPE's Nimble Storage and Primera arrays will find key similarities in the new Alletra "workload-optimized systems." The NVMe-only Alletra 6000 and 9000 may deliver higher performance and lower latency, but under the covers, they use the same operating systems as Nimble and Primera, respectively.

The most significant change for HPE storage customers may be the new Data Services Cloud Console that is optimized to work with Alletra and due to become available by year's end for use with Nimble and Primera to provide a common SaaS-based control plane. 

HPE designed the Data Services Cloud Console to offer the public cloud-like operational model that it claims increasing numbers of customers want for their on-premises storage infrastructure. Once users rack the hardware, they can connect and authenticate to the cloud console to configure the system.

Easing provisioning, management

Instead of time-consuming LUN provisioning, customers pick the type of application workload, service level and capacity they need, and HPE's AI-driven InfoSight recommends the best way to optimize the system, said Sandeep Singh, vice president of HPE storage marketing. He noted that customers won't need to know the details of the differing HPE storage systems, and they can replicate data between the Alletra 9000 and Primera and between the Alletra 6000 and Nimble.

The new cloud console can ease system upgrades and provide instant access to new SaaS-based data services -- such as a Data Ops Manager and intent-based provisioning -- that are available through a subscription model. HPE also makes available a unified API to facilitate access to infrastructure and data and let partners and customers build their own services or automation.

HPE Alletra 9000
Hewlett Packard Enterprise's new Alletra 9000 is based on the Primera storage array that it launched two years ago.

The simplification theme extends to procurement. Enterprises have the option to buy on-premises storage as a service through HPE GreenLake, paying only for what they use, similar to the way they do in the public cloud. HPE owns the infrastructure, and customers typically commit to contracts of three to five years.

During its quarterly earnings call in June, HPE said that its as-a-service order growth was 41%, and the annualized revenue run rate of $678 million represented a 30% increase year over year. Market research firms have also indicated enterprise demand for cloud-like operations and management is on the rise.

But it remains to be seen how quickly Nimble and Primera users will shift to the new NVMe-based Alletra. Customers faced an adjustment just two years ago when HPE launched Primera as the successor to 3PAR, and some lamented the loss of configurability and tuning capabilities.

Cloud service provider Iland is a heavy Nimble Storage user. Dante Orsini, senior vice president of business development at Iland, said that the company has no plans to "forklift everything" to Alletra, although he could envision adding an NVMe-based Alletra tier for customers that have especially high-performance needs.

"There are use cases for NVMe, but I don't think every app needs it," Orsini said, adding that he expects the faster new platform would carry a higher price tag.

Houston-based Iland is more interested in the new Data Services Cloud Console that it has been testing in its lab. One of the company's lead engineers told Orsini that he can't wait for the console to become available for Nimble. The cloud provider also wants to explore the console's unified API to expand its automation capabilities beyond the ones it developed in-house to provision and stand up equipment, Orsini said.

HPE Alletra 6000 performance

The HPE Alletra 6000 family targets the same "business-critical" workloads that Nimble Storage all-flash arrays do. HPE claims the Alletra 6000 is three times faster than Nimble flash systems and guarantees 99.9999% availability. The maximum raw capacity is 1.1 PB with the Alletra 6090 model. Pricing starts at $55,000 for 23 TB of capacity with three years of Tech Care Essential support.

Like Primera storage, the Alletra 9000 takes aim at "mission-critical" environments that require 100% availability, high performance and low latency. HPE claimed the all-NVMe Alletra 9080 model could deliver more than 2 million IOPS in four rack units, with 75% of I/O within 250-microsecond latency.

The Alletra 9000 uses NVMe-based PCIe solid-state drives (SSDs) in both the base chassis and expansion shelves and supports NVMe over Fabrics to extend the performance and latency benefits across systems. The maximum raw capacity for the Alletra 9060 and 9080 models is 721 TB. Pricing starts at $90,000 for 23 TB of capacity and three years of Tech Care Essential support.

Continuing support for Primera, Nimble

Although Alletra represents the future path for customers, HPE intends to continue to sell Primera and Nimble arrays and invest in the software, according to Ashish Prakash, the company's vice president and general manager of cloud data services. He said no improvements would be made to the hardware platforms.

"The IP that we have in the cloud console and in the OS will continue. Obviously, that's where we make most of our investments," Prakash said. "You should think of our roadmap evolving to where we want to bring the same operational experience to customers who have the products that are there today and seamlessly manage the go-forward platform, Alletra, while also being able to manage their [existing] fleet."

Unlike Alletra, Nimble gives customers options for non-NVMe flash storage as well as less expensive hybrid arrays that mix SSDs and slower hard disk drives. Nimble also lets customers add an Intel Optane cache to boost performance.

Primera generally ships as all-flash, but Singh said there have been "exception cases" of hybrid arrays. HPE added an all-NVMe base chassis option last year for customers that have requirements for higher performance and lower latency.

Rather than release upgrades to Primera and Nimble, HPE chose to introduce the "next-generation" Alletra brand name to emphasize that it's cloud-native management, said Ram Gopichandran, director of product management for HPE Storage. HPE officials said Alletra would further distinguish itself from Primera and Nimble in the future, but they could not share details on the product roadmap.

HPE's storage portfolio also includes the entry-level MSA for SMB customers and the high-end XP for mainframe users with scalability, performance, capacity or host attachments requirements beyond what Alletra supports. HPE currently has no plans to extend the Data Services Cloud Console to MSA and XP systems, according to Gopichandran.

Carol Sliwa is a TechTarget senior writer covering storage arrays and drives, flash and memory technologies, and enterprise architecture.

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