LAS VEGAS -- VMworld 2016 is serving as a launching pad for software-defined storage, with vendors using the conference to show off their applications for virtualizing and managing storage.
Nexenta Systems Inc. today launched its long-awaited NexentaStor 5.0 scale-out block and file storage platform, as well as its NexentaFusion 1.0 management and analytics application. Startups Primary Data and NooBaa Inc. this week rolled out initial versions of their software applications that run across any hardware and manage all types of storage. Hyper-converged software vendor Maxta Inc. introduced a freemium version of its MxSP software that users can download and try on any x86 server.
Not all the product news out of VMworld has been software, however. Tegile Inc. previewed its IntelliFlash Cloud Platform (CP), an all-flash rack-scale system built on Western Digital's SanDisk solid-state technology.
Many vendors have promised and shipped software-defined technology over the past few years, but the category is just coming into sharp focus, with new management products for server-based storage. Software-defined storage, such as VMware's Virtual SAN and MxSP, is also a major building block of hyper-convergence.
Eric Burgener, IDC's storage research director, said for all the talk of software-defined storage in the last few years, "those products haven't been mature enough for people to use them in primary and mission-critical applications. We've just recently seen people deploy them there. Now, Nexenta and others can point to people actually using them in critical production environments.
"We'll see, over time, the industry will move away from SAN- and NAS-based architectures and more toward server-based designs. That's 10 years down the road. It will be a gradual migration that will demand additional capabilities from their software that aren't there yet."
Eric Burgenerresearch director, storage, IDC
NexentaStor runs on industry-standard hardware. NexentaStor 5.0 adds continuous asynchronous replication for applications, promising recovery point objectives of less than one minute. It also includes a new vCenter plug-in, VMware Virtual Volumes 2.0 support, a Docker volume driver and OpenStack Cinder drivers for iSCSI and NFS.
NexentaFusion brings self-documenting REST APIs and storage analytics, as well as a single pane to manage multiple Nexenta appliances.
Nexenta showed off NexentaFusion at VMworld two years ago, and it said it would ship in 2015. Oscar Wahlberg, director of product management at Nexenta, said the delay was caused by massive work integrating NexentaFusion with NexentaStor and Nexenta's other products. NexentaFusion is bundled into NexentaStor, providing the interface for NexentaStor 5.
"We've done a lot of work behind the scenes for a number of years to integrate with Fusion," Wahlberg said. "NexentaStor provides a brand new interface through Fusion that makes it easier to manage appliances. We were getting all the puzzle pieces together."
Nexenta also has new all-flash reference architectures for NexentaStor, with systems and networking from Dell, Lenovo, Mellanox, Micron, SanDisk and Supermicro.
Nexenta previously announced partnerships with Western Digital/SanDisk to support NexentaStor on the InfiniFlash IF100 and IF150 all-flash arrays, as well as all-flash reference architectures with Lenovo.
Primary Data DataSphere
Primary Data is introducing its DataSphere platform for managing storage of any protocol from any vendor under one data space. DataSphere handles file, block and object storage by separating the data path from the control path. Primary Data claims DataSphere automatically aligns application I/O with the proper resources required by the application.
DataSphere will become generally available later in the year, but Primary Data CEO Lance Smith said at least 50 customers are already conducting proofs of concept.
DataSphere installs as a virtual machine or runs on a physical appliance, and it works as a metadata controller out of band to reduce latency and avoid any performance effects.
"We can use whatever storage they have, and whatever storage media and protocol," Smith said. "If they want to have EMC Isilon sitting next to NetApp FAS, they can do so. We can load balance between the arrays. If they want to use object storage and the cloud, they can use any [cloud] provider they want. It can be OpenStack, Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Google -- it doesn't matter to us."
Smith said Primary Data targets the enterprise, with media and entertainment, health services, and oil and gas exploration being the main verticals. "They require that no data is lost, and they work 24 by seven," he said of the vendor's target customers.
Pricing for DataSphere starts at $25,000 for a one-year subscription.
Although DataSphere is software and works with any storage media, its roots come from server-side flash pioneer Fusion-io. Primary Data CTO David Flynn and Chief Marketing Officer Rick White were also Fusion-io's founders, and Smith was president and COO of Fusion-io. Apple founder Steve Wozniak is Primary Data's chief data scientist, and he held a similar role at Fusion-io.
NooBaa launched a community edition of its software that sets out to manage unstructured storage running on premises and in the cloud, using a Simple Storage Service-compatible interface. The software adds data deduplication, compression and encryption. NooBaa's target workloads include big data analytics, life sciences, video surveillance and large-scale data logging.
"We're focused on the world of exploding unstructured data," said Mike Davis, chief marketing officer at NooBaa. "We think the S3-protocol has emerged as a new file standard for application-based storage. We can do far more interesting things using REST than by imposing the technical constraints of having to support a file system. Our technical goal is to make NooBaa look and feel like the customer is using the Amazon cloud. We want them to be able to provision storage quickly and trust the software to deliver the right availability and service levels, regardless of infrastructure, and pay only for what they use."
The NooBaa Community Edition is a free download from the vendor's website that installs on any server. Davis said an enterprise version with pay-per-use licensing will be available near the end of 2016. The NooBaa Core software runs on a virtual machine and handles metadata placement, resiliency and performance. After downloading Core software, customers can set it to connect storage nodes consisting of almost any type of hardware. They can pool nodes, as well as move storage across nodes and into public clouds, Davis said.
NooBaa CEO Yuval Dimnik and CTO Guy Margalit -- its founders -- previously worked at scale-out file system vendor Exanet. Dell acquired Exanet in 2010 and uses its technology for its Fluid File System.
The free version of Maxta Storage Platform, or MxSP, software is full-featured and allows customers to build a three-node hyper-converged cluster with up to 24 terabytes of capacity. MxSP-enabled clusters can support any x86-based server, including all-flash or hybrid storage configurations.
Maxta will not offer support for the free software, but it will sponsor an online forum for peer assistance. Maxta said customers will be able to upgrade to the paid premium license at any time.
Tegile IntelliFlash Cloud Platform
Tegile's latest all-flash array is a rack-scale all-flash system that will use 2U NVMe flash controllers and Western Digital's 3U IntelliFlash all-flash enclosures. The systems won't begin shipping until 2017, but Tegile promises prices beginning at 50 cents per gigabyte.
The multi-tiered cloud platform will include configurations built for capacity, with two controllers and 12 JBOFs for 6 PB of capacity; performance, with four controllers and six shelves for 3 PB; and a max system, with four controllers and 12 shelves.
Customers can scale their controller and flash shelves nondisruptively.
"We disaggregate the performance side from the capacity side," said Rob Commins, Tegile's vice president of marketing. "So, if SanDisk does some neat things on the capacity side, we can roll out a capacity refresh under the hood without requiring an entire system upgrade."
The IntelliFlash CP will use SAS connectivity when it launches, but Tegile plans to support NVMe over Fabrics and 3D Xpoint when those technologies become available, Commins said. The systems will support Fibre Channel, iSCSI and NAS at launch, with object support on the roadmap.
Tegile also sells its internally designed T3000 all-flash arrays and an IntelliFlash HD, or high density, all-flash system built on SanDisk technology.
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