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SolidFire storage ramps up enterprise data protection with Oxygen OS

SolidFire Oxygen operating system adds synchronous replication, snapshot replication and scheduling, and security features to all-flash array platform.

SolidFire today added enterprise data protection and security features in an operating system upgrade to its All-flash arrays as it continues its push to become a better fit for enterprises.

Oxygen is the eighth OS release for SolidFire storage, which names all of its OS versions after elements. The same OS runs across its SF2405, SF4805, SF9605 and SF9010 arrays.

Synchronous replication, snapshot replication and scheduling beef up SolidFire's enterprise data protection capabilities. Synchronous replication writes data coming into the system to primary and secondary sites at the same time. SolidFire already supported asynchronous replication, which writes data to primary storage first and then copies it to the secondary array. SolidFire storage customers can also now replicate snapshots to a second site, while using the scheduler to set the number of recurring snapshots and how long they stay on the array.

For security, SolidFire expanded its VLAN tagging to 256 VLANs and added LDAP Authentication support.

"The Oxygen release is targeted at data assurance," SolidFire vice president of marketing Jay Prassl said. "We've zoomed in on data protection and security for the enterprise."

SolidFire started out selling solely to cloud providers with quality of service as its main differentiator. Prassl said the vendor decided to also focus on enterprises that have adopted cloud storage models, and its customer base is about evenly split between enterprises and service providers. He expects enterprises to eventually make up at least 60 percent of its customers.

Forrester Research senior analyst Henry Baltazar said synchronous replication is a requirement for many enterprises looking to switch to all-flash systems. "The lack of synchronous replication is something enterprises have complained about to me," he said. "All-flash vendors are replacing tier one systems and tier one is not only for performance, it's also for reliability. That's a gap they had to fill to play in that sector."

Prassl said SolidFire almost always goes against a large legacy storage vendor such as EMC, NetApp or Hewlett-Packard 3PAR in deals, with the legacy vendor offering all-flash or hybrid systems. He said SolidFire's advantage is it provides more than pure performance, with QoS remaining as its unique feature.

"That is what separates us from the pack," he said. "When customers need to deploy flash for VDI and run their databases as well, competitors don't support that."

SolidFire has not had as much commercial success as fellow all-flash startup Pure Storage, which Gartner and IDC ranked second in all-flash market share behind EMC's XtremIO in 2014. Prassl said Pure is a better fit for companies looking to accelerate one or two applications, but those are not SolidFire's target customers.

"If they're running one or two applications, then managing quality of service is not that important for them," he said. "If SolidFire and Pure are in the same deal, somebody's in the wrong spot. We're serving different needs."

The Oxygen release is targeted at data assurance. We've zoomed in on data protection and security for the enterprise.
Jay PrasslSolidFire vice president of marketing

SolidFire customer Endicia has both service provider and enterprise requirements, according to Endicia IT manager and senior architect Mitul Patel. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based online postage and shipping company has more than 200 partners that use its services. Patel said low latency, high performance and no downtime were requirements when he began looking for a new storage system to replace aging spinning disk systems from EMC and HP a year ago.

Patel said he picked SolidFire storage over flash systems from his incumbent vendors as well as Pure and Violin Memory because of its QoS and ability to scale non-disruptively. Endicia has two 10-node SF systems for a total of 200 TB of raw SSD capacity.

"We're a SaaS [software as a service]-based 24/7 company, and all of our customers are constantly asking us for no downtime," he said. "That means no downtime for maintenance or anything. We want everything up and running 24/7 regardless of what we're doing on the back end. SolidFire allows us to add capacity, add a node or do software upgrades on the fly.

"The second thing that helps me is low latency and high performance. We run a [Microsoft] SQL database on the back end. Before, I could not feed enough IOPS for SQL; it would slow down and I would run out of spinning disk. I couldn't consolidate workloads onto one SAN because a misconfigured server or hungry application server would take I/Os from the database. Quality of service lets me guarantee performance to our customer-based applications."

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