The superior quality and enormous popularity of HPE Nimble flash storage arrays helped earn Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) a leading spot in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for solid-state arrays. HPE Nimble’s all-flash and hybrid SAN arrays were also recognized as the 2018 “Storage Product of the Year” by TechTarget. With all these accolades, it is clear that HPE Nimble is worth a look if you are in the market for flash storage arrays. In this blog post, we look at the benefits of HPE Nimble products and help you decide if they provide the right solution for your organization.
HPE Nimble’s Market Position
HPE Nimble data storage products are designed for mid-sized companies and departmental solutions within larger enterprises. HPE Nimble products are selected by organizations looking for the speed of flash storage, efficient data reduction, industry-leading reliability, and cloud integration. As demonstrated by their Gartner ranking, HPE Nimble is also considered to be a relatively mature product and a “safe choice” among competitors.
HPE Nimble vs HPE 3PAR
The Gartner ranking for HPE is actually based on two products: HPE Nimble and HPE 3PAR. Both are world-class flash-arrays and there is some overlap in their positioning for mid-sized companies. But, in general, 3PAR is positioned to appeal to datacenters, where scalable performance and resiliency are critical. The Nimble products are positioned for departmental solutions, mid-sized companies, and newcomers to the storage array market who are looking for simplicity, resiliency and cloud integration. Nimble provides less expensive entry-level solutions than 3PAR and does not compete at the top end for large enterprise customers.
For an overview of all the HPE data storage solutions, see: An Overview of HPE Enterprise Data Storage Products.
The HPE Nimble Product Line
Founded in 2008, Nimble Storage was a pioneer in flash arrays, introducing the CS200 series of hybrid arrays in 2010. Over the next 7 years Nimble experienced rapid growth, going public in 2013, and being acquired by HPE for $1.09 billion in 2017.
In addition to developing flash and hybrid array technology, Nimble Solutions created an innovative AI/Machine Learning system, InfoSight, that monitors their arrays, analyzes the data, and alerts IT staff to perform predictive maintenance to head off any downtime. InfoSight enabled Nimble Storage to achieve unparalleled reliability. Since the acquisition, HPE has extended InfoSight to the HPE 3PAR storage family as well as HPE server families including ProLiant, BladeSystem, Synergy, and Apollo.
HPE Nimble products all run the NimbleOS operating system which provides a variety of common services including dynamic flash-based read caching, write-optimization, replication, inline compression, and deduplication. Perhaps most importantly, the NimbleOS provides sensors that monitor flash array performance and provide data back to InfoSight for predictive analytics.
The HPE Nimble product line is divided into three broad categories: All-Flash, Adaptive Flash, and Secondary Flash.
As the name implies, HPE Nimble all-flash arrays store all your in data solid state flash drive technology. This architecture results in high performance across all reads and writes. The all-flash products include integration with HPE InfoSight predictive analytics to ensure 99.9999% guaranteed availability of data. They are designed to be easy to deploy and immediately ready to use.
In addition, Nimble all-flash arrays are future-ready, providing the following options (discussed in more detail below):
- Cloud-ready. Data stored locally today can be migrated to the cloud (and vice-versa) through HPE Cloud Volumes.
- NVMe support. The all-flash arrays are compatible with the non-volatile memory express (NVMe) protocol for accessing high-speed storage media.
- SCM support. The all-flash arrays can also support storage-class memory (SCM), a new low-latency storage media that provides performance at near DRAM levels.
Adaptive Flash Arrays
The Nimble Adaptive Flash (AF) arrays combine traditional magnetic hard disk drives (HDDs) with solid-state drives (SSDs or flash drives) in a hybrid configuration that provides and economic alternative that approaches the performance of all-flash storage.
The hybrid combination of solid-state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs) allows organizations to enjoy the low cost of HDDs for infrequently accessed data while enjoying the high-performance levels of SSDs for data they access more often. In this manner, HPE Nimble Adaptive Flash Arrays are designed to handle both primary and secondary flash workloads. Furthermore, no end-user intervention is required for tiering. HPE Nimble Adaptive Flash Arrays automatically migrate the more frequently accessed data into tier-1 (SSD) storage.
As with the all-flash products, HPE Nimble AF-arrays are cloud-ready so that data stored on-premise can be migrated to the public cloud. Data can also be easily migrated on-premises to all-flash technology.
Secondary Flash Arrays
Like the Adaptive Flash arrays, HPE Nimble Secondary Flash Arrays provide a hybrid SSD/HDD storage option, but the Secondary Flash Array products have enhanced data deduplication features and are optimized for backup solutions.
These systems are designed to simply and efficiently handle tasks like Veeam backups and disaster recovery. In addition, because backup data can be accessed from a flash-optimized platform, organizations gain the ability to run development/test, QA, and analytics workloads on their backup data. Even production workloads could be run on this backup platform when needed, as in a disaster recovery scenario.
With an Secondary Flash Array, organizations can back up and recover data from any primary storage array nearly instantaneously. Significant space savings are achieved with the always-on, inline deduplication and compression features built in to the product.
Efficient Data Reduction – HPE’s “Store More” Guarantee
HPE Nimble has gone to great lengths to reduce the total cost of ownership for their All-Flash arrays by developing the industry’s leading software technology for data reduction. This includes always-on, inline, data deduplication which ensures that you do not waste space storing duplicate copies of your data. For example, if you store 20 virtual machines, all running the same operating system, only 1 copy of that operating system needs to be stored in the flash-array. HPE Nimble’s technology processes deduplication before other data reduction techniques are applied, and before data is written to flash. This improves performance and avoids unnecessary writes which can prematurely wear the SSD drives.
In addition to deduplication, HPE Nimble provides always-on inline data compression, block folding, thin provisioning, zero-pattern elimination, and a host of other techniques to minimize data storage.
At a result of this technology, HPE Nimble is able to offer the Store More Guarantee which guarantees that you can store more data per raw terabyte with HPE than the competition. HPE will quantify the storage performance with guaranteed data reduction ratios based on your workloads.
“Six Nines” Reliability with InfoSight
Not only is HPE Nimble efficient, but it is incredibly reliable technology. In fact, the company guarantees 99.9999% (i.e., “six nines”) availability of data. A primary reason for this reliability is the HPE Infosight service that is bundled with all HPE Nimble products. InfoSight is an advanced AI-based platform that gathers performance data from HPE Nimble devices around the globe, analyzes that data in the context of your infrastructure, and uses predictive analytics to head off problems before they occur.
Not only does InfoSight bolster reliability, but the technology can proactively reduce the need for L1 and L2 support. That is because InfoSight can usually diagnose the nature of a problem and auto-create an L3 ticket to get it resolved before the issues causes much disruption.
HPE InfoSight has been an extremely successful technology. So much so that HPE has rolled it out across other product lines. According to Gartner, “The continuous roll out of InfoSight support provides detailed analytics and proactive resolutions that can identify issues outside the storage infrastructure, which helps to automate support and simplifies management.” For more details on this rollout, see our blog post: HPE InfoSight Applies Artificial Intelligence to Reduce IT Operating Expenses.
After reliability and cost-effectiveness, the next most common concern customers have about data storage relates to cloud compatibility. To support hybrid-IT environments, and ensure that customers can migrate data to and from public cloud storage, all Nimble products support HPE Cloud Volumes – an enterprise-grade multicloud storage service for AWS and Azure.
Using HPE Cloud Volumes in combination with HPE Nimble storage arrays, you can create a multicloud datacenter that enables you to move data to the public cloud, move it to another provider, or bring it back on-premises without incurring costly data migration charges.
In addition, you get global visibility to view and manage data storage across clouds and your datacenter. HPE InfoSight is integrated into this environment as well, to prevent issues and help you optimize data placement.
Lastly, this cloud integration is supported by HPE Nimble level3 engineers. So, if you ever have a problem, or a question, help is only a phone call away.
HPE Nimble Pioneers New Technology for Performance
Efficiency, reliability, and cloud support make HPE Nimble a leader in flash storage. But HPE continues to push the Nimble platform forward, ensuring that it stays on top. As discussed, Nimble engineers were pioneers in the use of flash memory SSDs in SAN storage arrays to significantly improve performance. Today, as HPE Nimble, the organization continues integrate new technology into the product architecture to continuously enhance performance.
HPE refers to this technology as Memory-Driven Flash – a new class of storage that achieve performance at near DRAM speed. Memory-Driven Flash leverages the non-volatile memory express (NVMe) logical device interface specification, together with storage class memory (SCM) to achieve breakthrough storage performance.
NVMe PCIe SSDs
NVMe, a modern storage protocol alternative to SCSI, is designed for extensive parallelism, concurrency, and scalability. While all-flash arrays significantly improve performance relative to HDD arrays, the bottleneck today is around the SCSI protocol. Replacing SCSI with NVMe removes that bottleneck, enabling storage architectures to realize the full performance benefits of all-flash storage.
Storage Class Memory
However, flash storage alone cannot fully realize the performance benefit of NVMe and engineers are now looking to a new storage technology - Storage Class Memory (SCM). At the device level, SCM is at least 10X faster than existing flash technologies – with speed approaching that of DRAM memory chips. But because it is much less expensive than DRAM, SCM has the potential to scale up to handle enterprise storage requirements. HPE’s SCM solution is built on Intel Optane technology.
According to HPE, with Memory-Driven Flash technology, HPE Nimble Storage arrays are capable of delivering sub 300 microsecond latencies for near 100% of all I/Os. At the technology develops, the average latency could drop below 100 microseconds. That would be ten times faster than existing flash array performance.
Memory-Driven Flash is implemented as a high-performance tier within an HPE Nimble storage device. In the same way that flash can be used as a high-performance tier in an HDD array, we now see SCM being used as a high-performance tier in an all-flash array.
As you can see, HPE Nimble has a lot to offer, whether you are a:
- Small organization looking to implement your first flash SAN array;
- Mid-sized company needing to consolidate and modernize storage;
- Department within a larger enterprise that needs an efficient and easily managed data storage solution.
Unique in the industry, HPE Nimble provides high-speed flash storage, highly efficient data reduction, unprecedented reliability, and cloud integration to support hybrid IT. If you are considering a flash-array solution, make sure to take a hard look at HPE Nimble.
IIS - Your Partner for HPE Data Storage
International Integrated Solutions (IIS) is a managed service provider and system integrator with deep expertise in HPE storage solutions and the entire HPE product line. IIS is a distinguished HPE partner, winning HPE Global Partner of the Year in 2016 and Arrow’s North American Reseller Partner of the Year in 2017.
Having solved a myriad of problems for hundreds of customers, IIS brings a holistic view of the datacenter that includes storage as a component. IIS can help your organization make the best storage decisions in the context of your existing datacenter infrastructure and workloads. In particular, IIS can help you determine if HPE Nimble is the right solutions for your organization, and – if it makes sense – help you to design, implement, and manage a world-class solution.