SolidFire Element X adds software-only pricing model

In its first product launch since becoming part of NetApp, SolidFire adds a new all-flash appliance, upgrades its Element OS and adds a software-only pricing model around Element X.

SolidFire upgraded its Element operating system and launched a new flash appliance and pricing model for SolidFire...

Element X, one of its first new products since becoming part of NetApp.

SolidFire has run as a division inside NetApp since NetApp closed its $870 million acquisition of the all-flash storage vendor last February.

SolidFire today unveiled its Fluorine operating system and SF19210 all-flash storage system. Fluorine is the ninth version of the Element OS and follows SolidFire's tradition of naming its OS versions after elements in the periodic table. Fluorine supports VMware Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) and expands the Fibre Channel (FC) scalability of SolidFire arrays.

The new SF19210 is SolidFire's highest performance and highest capacity system, built for heavily virtualized servers, databases and cloud infrastructures. The SF19210 replaces the SF9010, which was based on older hardware and has been taken off the market. An SF19210 can hold 10 1.92 TB SSDs for 19.2 TB of raw capacity per node before data reduction. The SF19210 has 384 GB of system memory, compared with 256 GB for SolidFire's previous high-end appliance, the SF9010.

SolidFire sells software and hardware separately

SolidFire also introduced FlashForward Capacity Licensing, which allows customers to license software separately from the arrays. FlashForward is an offshoot of SolidFire Element X, the software-only version of the operating system that the vendor began selling to hyperscale customers in 2015. SolidFire Element X allows customers to build their own arrays using SolidFire's OS.

Under FlashForward, there will be a perpetual capacity license offering for SolidFire Element X software in 100 TB increments that can also be used with SF arrays. The license spans storage arrays and data centers, and carries over when the customers upgrade or add SolidFire appliances.

"We've broken apart the purchasing of software from the purchasing of hardware," said Dave Wright, general manager of SolidFire. "Element X has driven a conversation with customers around software-only licensing."

Wright said FlashForward licensing allows customers to license SolidFire Element X software separately, but still buy it on an appliance. When they buy new storage, customers don't have to renew the software license.

The vendor has incentive to oversell deduplication and then underdeliver, so the customer has to buy new storage. If the customer gets better performance than expected, the vendor gets nothing out of that.
Dave Wrightgeneral manager, SolidFire

"The appliance model has a tremendous amount of lock-in," Wright said. "If you refresh hardware, you have to refresh all your software, too. We've also seen data reduction technologies impose a lot of uncertainties and cause an antagonistic relationship between vendors and customers. The vendor has incentive to oversell deduplication and then underdeliver, so the customer has to buy new storage. If the customer gets better performance than expected, the vendor gets nothing out of that. And the customer doesn't really know what the price will be, because reduction rates are unpredictable. So, a software-only license offers more predictability."

On the other hand, Wright said, "software-only storage is complex because you have compatibility issues and you have to integrate systems with software. We realized customers didn't want to do all that integration, but they liked the benefits of software-only licensing."

SolidFire has not disclosed the per-capacity pricing for FlashForward. Wright said licenses will be based on provisioned capacity, so data reduction rates have no impact.

"Reduction rates factor into how much hardware you need to buy, but it's in both of our interests to have as high a data reduction as possible," Wright said. "We're not making money on hardware anymore, so we don't want them to buy more hardware than they need."

SolidFire will also allow customers to buy with the more traditional model, where customers buy software and hardware licenses together.

Fluorine combines quality of service with virtual machines

Fluorine will integrate SolidFire's quality of service with VVOLs, allowing customers to set minimum, maximum and burst IOPS levels to establish capacity and performance priorities for specific virtual machines. Admins can change capacity and performance on the fly nondisruptively.

SolidFire is also increasing its FC scalability by going from two FC nodes in a SolidFire cluster to four FC nodes. That allows customers to scale out to 40 FC storage nodes. Other Fluorine features include a new user interface and the ability to use overlapping IP addresses on VLANs through separate routing tables. The UI consolidates array metrics into one dashboard, and the new VLAN capability preserves limited IP address resources via virtual routing and forwarding technology.

Next Steps

How the new SolidFire arrays appeal to the enterprise

SolidFire CEO discusses the all-flash market

Data protection and security features added to SolidFire arrays

Dig Deeper on Solid-state storage