Nexenta storage, Lenovo servers join hands

Nexenta and Lenovo launch strategic partnership to give customers new all-flash, all-disk and hybrid storage options and single-call technical support for software-defined storage

Nexenta and Lenovo today disclosed a strategic partnership that offers customers reference architectures for all-flash, all-disk and hybrid configurations and round-the-clock, single-call technical support for software-defined storage.

The companies said the second phase of the partnership will kick in later this year and give customers the option to buy factory-integrated appliances to further ease the deployment of Nexenta storage software on Lenovo's x86 servers. Target workloads for Nexenta storage-Lenovo server deployments include virtual machines, OpenStack-based clouds, file shares, home directories, backup and archiving.

Users will have the choice of deploying a scale-up or scale-out architecture. The scale-up option is for block and file storage using Nexenta NexentaStor software-defined storage, which is based on the open source ZFS file system. The scale-out architecture will use Nexenta's proprietary NexentaEdge software, which runs on Linux servers and supports block and object storage. Neither the reference architectures nor the factory-integrated products are available yet for NexentaEdge.

The reference architectures currently available for NexentaStor have the following configuration options: 76 TB for all flash, 372 TB for hybrid and 768 TB for all disk. The storage supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet and 8 Gbps and 16 Gbps Fibre Channel for network connectivity. Supported storage features include ZFS copy on write, unlimited writable snapshots, thin provisioning, and inline data compression. The all-flash version uses the Lenovo Storage E1024 enclosure, and the hybrid and all-disk versions use the Lenovo Storage E1012.

"The reference architectures make sure the media -- all flash, hybrid, all-disk media -- is optimized," said Nexenta CEO Tarkan Maner.

Julia Palmer, research director at Gartner, said integration issues have impeded the adoption of software-defined storage. She said large enterprises may be willing to take on the integration work because they have the IT staff to do it, but mid-market enterprises want factory-integrated products and a single point of support.

"They want a turnkey appliance, and they want to have the freedom to do it on any hardware they want," Palmer said. She said Lenovo customers would not want to have to bring in another vendor's hardware to deploy the Nexenta storage software.

Nexenta already has partnerships with server hardware vendors, including Dell, Super Micro, Quanta and Cisco. Only the Dell and Super Micro relationships offered options for support and service, according to Maner.

The main new twist from a technology standpoint with the Lenovo partnership is the upcoming scale-out option with NexentaEdge, according to Maner. He said Nexenta plans to offer similar scale-out block and object storage options with additional server partners. Nexenta has no scale-out file storage, but Maner said the company plans to add support for NFS and SMB in the fourth quarter of this year.

David Lincoln, general manager of Lenovo's storage business unit, said the company plans to offer additional software-defined storage options with other storage vendors.

"We see software-defined storage as a disruptive change to legacy ways of doing business. We think it's a way to change the economics of the data center. In addition to bringing choice, it's bringing value," Lincoln said. "So we're moving aggressively in this space."

Henry Baltazar, research director for storage at 451 Research, said the Lenovo-Nexenta strategic partnership comes down to "market extension" for both companies.

"Lenovo is still one of the top server vendors. Lenovo doesn't really have a strong storage portfolio. So, now they have something that they could sell to their customers," Baltazar said. "For a vendor like Nexenta, it's more of an opportunity for them to get into other areas. Nexenta's a growing company but not of the scale of Lenovo. They're not going to be able to provide that level of break/fix and hardware support and have the same kind of global reach that a company like Lenovo has."

Customers have the option to purchase technical support and service for the Nexenta software-Lenovo server infrastructure in one-, two- or three-year increments, according to Maner. Pricing varies based on the level of service/support the customer chooses.

Maner said service providers and some other customers have preferred to optimize the software-defined storage configurations based on their unique workload requirements. But, mid-market and smaller customers tend to favor a more integrated approach, he said.

Palmer said, by 2019, Gartner expects 30% of the storage array capacity in enterprise data centers will be deployed on either software-defined storage or hardware-converged infrastructure. Only about 5% is currently deployed on x86 servers, she said.

"It's still early days. The majority is not doing it yet," said 451 Research's Baltazar. But, he expects the pace to pick up as object storage, which uses commodity hardware, gains popularity. 

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