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Nimble pins apps to flash, adds software-based encryption

Continuing its wooing of enterprise customers, Nimble Storage adds software-based encryption and now lets users pin applications to flash to improve performance.

Nimble Storage took more steps to attract enterprise customers today, adding an all-flash service level and software-based encryption to its hybrid arrays.

Nimble also added a REST API-based extensibility framework that allows administrators to build customized reporting and workflows for storage.

These features come a month after Nimble added a per-virtual machine monitoring feature to its InfoSight cloud-based support engine.

Nimble began selling Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) arrays to small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) and midrange customers in 2010, but has been reaching for the enterprise since becoming a public company in 2014. The vendor added Fibre Channel connectivity last November.

Improving flash in hybrid arrays

Nimble has strived to improve the flash performance on its arrays, without adopting an all-flash model. Its Adaptive Flash Platform includes all-flash expansion shelves, which were added a year ago to give customers up to 26 TB of additional flash capacity per shelf for its CS arrays.

Now, customers can use the all-flash service levels to guarantee that an application will run entirely on solid-state drives (SSDs). According to Nimble vice president of product marketing Radhika Krishnan, the flash service level is aimed at transactional processing, business intelligence and virtual desktop infrastructure deployments that require the lowest latency.

Nimble arrays support up to 32 TB of SSDs in a node, and customers can dedicate any amount of that flash to an application.

We allow you to have an all-flash experience, even if you don't have an all-flash array.
Radhika Krishnanvice president of product marketing at Nimble

To turn on an all-flash service level in the Nimble user interface, customers can choose which applications to pin to flash and how much flash should be available. They can also pin applications to flash during specific times that require a high level of performance.

"We allow you to have an all-flash experience, even if you don't have an all-flash array," Krishnan said. "If customers have a [SAP] HANA or a stock trading application, where they need a higher level of responsiveness, we give them the ability to do that."

Nimble isn't first to go down this path. Tegile Systems has allowed customers to pin volumes to SSDs on its hybrid arrays since 2012.

Encryption for replicated data

Nimble's SmartSecure software-based encryption uses its Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) file system to compress, encrypt and replicate data across arrays. Krishnan said the target array will understand the encryption key.

"Large enterprises have security concerns, particularly in the financial area," she said. "We can encrypt mission-critical data at the primary site, replicate it and it remains encrypted at the target site," Krishnan said.

Nimble customer Shimmy Messing, CTO of e-discovery firm Advanced Discovery Solutions, said he has been beta testing the flash service level and SmartSecure. Washington, D.C.-based Advanced Discovery stores "millions of tiny files" on Nimble arrays and indexes, and searches them for law firms and corporate legal departments involved in litigation, he said.

According to Messing, the flash service level will help his firm give priority to applications that require the most performance.

"We can say, 'What's most important to us today? We can assign more flash to those processes easily,'" he said. "We can assign more cache to offices running our analytics packages that take up more processing power than an office where they're just reading 10 image files or a PDF."

Messing said his company pushed Nimble to add software-based encryption because security is crucial to its business. Advanced Discovery has used software-based encryption for media in transit and laptops, but not on the SAN, Messing said.

"I’m happy that it's just a firmware upgrade," he said. "We're seeing virtually no performance degradation."

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