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SolidFire touts density, scale of smaller SSD array

All-flash vendor SolidFire releases new arrays that scale to 100 nodes and petabytes of storage, claims less than $3 per usable GB price.

All-flash array vendor SolidFire is replacing two midrange arrays with smaller high-density nodes that can be mixed and matched to build a scalable system with petabytes of storage.

SolidFire today came out with the SF2405 and SF4805 solid-state arrays, which mark the third generation of its flagship SF Series hardware. As with other SolidFire platforms, the SF2405 and SF4805 boxes will be sold in a minimum configuration of four nodes and expand to a maximum of 100 nodes with support for iSCSI and Fibre Channel connectivity.

Customers will be able to mix and match node types and protocols. The vendor claims a four-node SF2405 cluster delivers an effective 35 TB of storage and 200,000 predictable IOPS for less than $100,000. The larger SF4805 system doubles the capacity to 68 TB.

Effective storage capacity (vs. raw capacity) of the platforms is boosted as much as four times with inline data deduplication, compression and thin provisioning.

The 1U arrays use multilevel cell NAND flash and have 10 drive slots. SolidFire claims the systems can handle 50,000 IOPS per node. SolidFire said its SF3010 and SF 6010 models will be phased out by December, while the higher capacity SF9010 array that launched in mid-2013 will stay on the market.

SolidFire began selling solely to cloud service providers, but now its business is split roughly evenly between service providers and enterprise customers. The company emphasized its smaller arrays do not signal a move to the midmarket.

"This is about enabling our target customers to move onto our platform quickly and at a price below three dollars a (usable) gigabyte from Day 1," said Jay Pressl, a SolidFire vice president of marketing.

Design goals include consolidation, quality of service

Joseph Unsworth, a research vice president with analyst firm Gartner Inc., said SolidFire's smaller platforms should appeal to enterprises that need a flexible architecture at a reasonable price.

"SolidFire started out by targeting hyperscale and cloud service providers that require great quality of service, but the $250,000 acquisition cost for a minimum of four nodes was a bit challenging, even for larger organizations. Getting a sub-$100K entry point for an all-flash array that also provides inline data reduction is an important step for them," Unsworth said.

The SF2405 adds a higher capacity option to SolidFire's low-end platform and targets enterprises looking to stand up private clouds or deliver infrastructure as a service in a reduced footprint.

The SF4805 system is viewed as a scale-out option to the entry-level SF2405. It targets enterprises that need to consolidate mixed application workloads on a single platform.

Competition for flash arrays heating up

The new arrays run the seventh version of the vendor's Element Operating System, which includes guaranteed quality of service and a RESTful application programming interface. Full support is provided for VMware's Site Recovery Manager for using the smaller SF nodes for backup and disaster recovery.

The move comes amid momentum for solid-state storage arrays, both from flash startups like SolidFire and legacy array vendors.

Gartner Inc. predicts that, by 2019, 20% of high-end storage arrays will be supplanted by dedicated SSD arrays. By 2017, SSD arrays are forecast to generate five times more revenue than in 2014.

SolidFire today also added funding to help compete with the major storage vendors. It closed an $82 million Series D round, bringing its total funding to $150 million. Greenspring Associates led the round, along with Silicon Valley Bank and an undisclosed sovereign wealth fund, according to SolidFire. Previous investors include New Enterprise Associates, Novak Biddle Venture Partners, Samsung Partners Investment Corp. and Valhalla Partners.

Next Steps

SolidFire puts Fibre Channel, replication and backup on flash arrays

SolidFire adds VM-level QoS plug-in to SSD array

Dig Deeper on All-flash arrays

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Do you think quality of service guarantees should be a baseline function for all-flash arrays?