Nimbus Goes After HPC Market with Disk-Priced Flash Array

By Michael Feldman

July 20, 2010

Nimbus Data Systems has unveiled its new high-density enterprise flash memory system, delivering 10 terabytes of solid state capacity per 2U shelf. The S1000 can scale up to 250 TB per system and is being priced to challenge spinning disk appliances head on. For HPC and other enterprise users looking to turbo-charge performance of terascale-sized data sets, Nimbus offers a compelling case for making the switch to flash technology.

Four-year old Nimbus is headquartered in San Francisco, Calif., and had been aggressively pursuing the emerging flash-based storage market with its S-class storage arrays. The company has managed to collect about 200 customers, the largest being the US Department of Defense. They’ve also corralled OEM wins with IBM Tivoli and AMCC. As a result, Nimbus says they’re profitable and debt free — not bad for a company that grew up during one of the worst economic downturns in modern times.

The general idea behind employing flash memory for I/O drives is to take advantage of Moore’s Law in order to close the performance gap between external storage and the other computer components. Over the past 10 years, hard drives have not become appreciably faster or more power efficient, while the performance of a computer’s solid state components has increased several-fold. “We believe storage is on an unsustainable trajectory in the datacenter,” says Nimbus CEO Tom Isakovich. “While CPU, memory and network performance have all grown exponentially, storage performance and storage efficiency really have not kept pace.”

External storage demand is escalating, though. Virtualization, data warehousing, and high performance computing are multiplying the need for more I/O, especially random-access I/O. Isakovich says more hard drives, storage tiering, and cache solutions are not the answer. According to him, while they may boost performance a bit, they’re really not addressing the underlying inefficiency of the spinning disk technology. “Drives have really run their course,” says Isakovich.

Nimbus’ mission to drive a stake through the heart of the hard drive was launched in April, with its first all-flash memory S-class storage arrays: the S250 and S500, which provided 2.5 TB and 5.0 TB per shelf, respectively. All of the S-class offerings use Micron’s Enterprise Multi-Level Cell (EMLC) NAND flash, which is five times more durable than vanilla MLC used in consumer devices and much less expensive than Single-Level Cell (SLC) NAND commonly used for most enterprise SSDs. SLC remains the more robust technology, but at about quadruple the cost and a quarter of the density of EMLC silicon.

Nimbus has managed to layer even more reliability on top of the EMLC silicon by incorporating write amplification, wear leveling and dual-parity RAID into its design. They also over-provision the storage by 28 percent to account for the inevitable degradation of the NAND devices over time. The S1000 employs the higher density 34 nm EMLC NAND from Micron, which makes it possible to offer 400 GB of storage per blade. (Because of the over-provisioning, there is actually 512 GB per blade.) The product comes with a one-year warranty, which is upgradeable to three or five years, although Isakovich believes the hardware will actually be just fine for up to 10 years.

Although S1000 performance may be less than the more expensive SLC-based flash memory products out there, the Nimbus offering easily outruns 15K RPM disk array technology typically found in tier 1 storage. Compared to disk, the S-class products deliver up to 24 times more IOPS (1.65 million), up to 16 times faster data transfer (7.2 GB/sec), and 95 percent lower latency (300 microseconds). Space-wise, a single S1000 2U shelf can deliver the same number of IOPS as in four racks of spinning disks.

Since no moving parts are involved, power savings are equally as impressive. Nimbus is claiming 90 percent lower energy usage — as low as 15 watts per terabyte — and a 70 percent reduction in BTU cooling demand. And since there is less heat generated and no motors to wear out, fewer replacements will be needed.

An S1000 shelf is made up of 24 hot-swappable storage blades. Up to 25 shelves can be stacked via 6G SAS ports, making it possible to deploy a 250 GB file system all in flash. A storage shelf is powered by two Intel quad-core Nehalem processors, although Isakovich says expansion shelves don’t require CPUs or the associated memory. According to him, the flash is so much faster than a disk that the CPUs are rarely tied up waiting for I/O to complete, so you just need less of them to manage the storage.

Since all S-class gear speaks iSCSI, NFS, and CIFS, the hardware can act as both a SAN device and a NAS device. Systems come standard with four 10GbE ports (SFP+ or 10GBASE-T) per appliance, which can auto-negotiate down to GbE when needed. Nimbus is also now offering an upgrade to twelve 10GbE ports, using a technology they’re calling “FlexConnect.” It employs triple active-active 10 GbE network controllers, and, in some cases, will eliminate the need for a standalone SAN switch.

The combination of off-the-shelf 10GbE components, Intel CPUs and EMLC NAND chips has enabled Nimbus to achieve cost parity with 15K disks products. All the S-class products, including the new S1000, are priced at $10,000 per terabyte, which is more or less in line with other tier 1 disk-based appliances.

Of course, any vendor could assemble similar hardware, but the S1000 is more than just flash-in-a-box. The real secret sauce is Nimbus’ HALO operating system, a full-featured software stack that comes standard in all S-class platforms. It includes snapshots, replication, mirroring, deduplication, compression, thin provisioning, real-time analytics, proactive notification, and a Web management interface. In late 2010, the company is planning to make a programmable API available as well. Because all this functionality is baked in, there is no need to purchase third-party software or hardware to make the system enterprise-capable. “We think that gives us a sustainable advantage since it has taken us five years to write all this software,” says Isakovich.

Because the company has been able to solve the acquisition cost penalty for flash, while at the same time offering a feature-rich enterprise storage platform, it may be carving a unique home for itself in the IT landscape. Competitors like NetApp, EqualLogic (Dell) and EMC all offer SSD capabilities to one extent or another, but there are no pure flash offerings to match the Nimbus S-class. On the other hand, pure flash array vendors may offer better performance with SLC NAND, but typically bundle little if any software with their systems. And because those systems are based on the more expensive SLC technology, they come at a price premium.

With the S-class platform, Nimbus is looking to go after IOPS-critical storage applications, especially virtualization, traditional database processing, and On-Line Transaction Processing (OLTP). Now, with the higher capacity S1000, they have a credible entry for the HPC market. Data-intensive applications like seismic analysis, image rendering, and many science codes are I/O bound and thus ideally suited for flash-based storage. Isakovich says they have a proof of concept deployment at one of the big supercomputing centers and also have a couple of oil and gas companies looking at systems. He expects to see some customer deployments by the end of the quarter.

The new platform currently tops out at 250 TB per system, but the dedupe and compression technology can boost the effective storage by a factor of 3 to 10, pushing the S1000 into the petascale realm. According to Isakovich, they’re planning to expand system capacity even further later this year. “The demand we’re seeing from the HPC community is rather significant and we think we can continue to push the density envelope even more,” he says.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Cray Introduces All Flash Lustre Storage Solution Targeting HPC

June 19, 2018

Citing the rise of IOPS-intensive workflows and more affordable flash technology, Cray today introduced the L300F, a scalable all-flash storage solution whose primary use case is to support high IOPS rates to/from a scra Read more…

By John Russell

Lenovo to Debut ‘Neptune’ Cooling Technologies at ISC

June 19, 2018

Lenovo today announced a set of cooling technologies, dubbed Neptune, that include direct to node (DTN) warm water cooling, rear door heat exchanger (RDHX), and hybrid solutions that combine air and liquid cooling. Lenov Read more…

By John Russell

World Cup is Lame Compared to This Competition

June 18, 2018

So you think World Cup soccer is a big deal? While I’m sure it’s very compelling to watch a bunch of athletes kick a ball around, World Cup misses the boat because it doesn’t include teams putting together their ow Read more…

By Dan Olds

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Banks Boost Infrastructure to Tackle GDPR

As banks become more digital and data-driven, their IT managers are challenged with fast growing data volumes and lines-of-businesses’ (LoBs’) seemingly limitless appetite for analytics. Read more…

IBM Demonstrates Deep Neural Network Training with Analog Memory Devices

June 18, 2018

From smarter, more personalized apps to seemingly-ubiquitous Google Assistant and Alexa devices, AI adoption is showing no signs of slowing down – and yet, the hardware used for AI is far from perfect. Currently, GPUs Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray Introduces All Flash Lustre Storage Solution Targeting HPC

June 19, 2018

Citing the rise of IOPS-intensive workflows and more affordable flash technology, Cray today introduced the L300F, a scalable all-flash storage solution whose p Read more…

By John Russell

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Xiaoxiang Zhu Receives the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC

June 13, 2018

Xiaoxiang Zhu, who works for the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Technical University of Munich (TUM), was awarded the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC for her outstanding contributions in the field of high performance computing (HPC) in Europe. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

U.S Considering Launch of National Quantum Initiative

June 11, 2018

Sometime this month the U.S. House Science Committee will introduce legislation to launch a 10-year National Quantum Initiative, according to a recent report by Read more…

By John Russell

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Exascale USA – Continuing to Move Forward

June 6, 2018

The end of May 2018, saw several important events that continue to advance the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Exascale Computing Initiative (ECI) for the United Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Exascale for the Rest of Us: Exaflops Systems Capable for Industry

June 6, 2018

Enterprise advanced scale computing – or HPC in the enterprise – is an entity unto itself, situated between (and with characteristics of) conventional enter Read more…

By Doug Black

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Sympo Read more…

By Staff

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google I/O 2018: AI Everywhere; TPU 3.0 Delivers 100+ Petaflops but Requires Liquid Cooling

May 9, 2018

All things AI dominated discussion at yesterday’s opening of Google’s I/O 2018 developers meeting covering much of Google's near-term product roadmap. The e Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Franci Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Part One: Deep Dive into 2018 Trends in Life Sciences HPC

March 1, 2018

Life sciences is an interesting lens through which to see HPC. It is perhaps not an obvious choice, given life sciences’ relative newness as a heavy user of H Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Charts Two-Dimensional Quantum Course

April 26, 2018

Quantum error correction, essential for achieving universal fault-tolerant quantum computation, is one of the main challenges of the quantum computing field and it’s top of mind for Google’s John Martinis. At a presentation last week at the HPC User Forum in Tucson, Martinis, one of the world's foremost experts in quantum computing, emphasized... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This