A Solid State of Affairs for Cloud

During my journey this year to the various vendor-fests I had the opportunity to meet a whole bunch of ‘wicked smart’ and passionate people. As a guy who was part of five startups (of which three were successful), I like to walk around the vendor floor and see what companies are doing new and interesting things. These are usually smaller booths with the top execs at them giving the person who stops by a chance to see if the company has the passion at the top as well as an ability to see how well they know the technology and the market.

During my most recent trip to DellWorld I got to do just that – spend a little time walking around and meeting some new companies. One of which is a company called SolidFire and frankly the name didn’t strike me (sorry guys) but the two people I got to chat with really did just that – passion and knowledge plus a great understanding of the market.

I walked into the booth being ready to be dazzled with speeds and feeds – this is a solid-state disk company, or so I thought. Actually they told me they are a software company – hmm, I though,t how can that be – a picture of your array is staring me in the face. Well yes we have an array built on a standardized Dell server platform with SSD drives in it. They told me the real magic is in the fact that the array:

  • Can scale linearly as drives are added – meaning a straight line increase in IOPS without an increase in latency. We’re talking about an array that scales up to 7.5M IOPS … which means CSP scale (ok, I’m listening).
  • Multi-tenant – meaning it works in large scale virtualized data centers and is cloud-ready (table stakes these days).
  • QoS – the software actually allows the service provider (IT or a CSP) to set specific IOPS and latency policies tied to an ability to chargeback accordingly (now you’ve got my attention).
  • RAID-less architecture (whoa – what? RAID LESS? How does that provide a reliable platform?) – the array makes two redundant copies (see my other posts on SLAs – this is measured by most as durability) that allows the array to absorb multiple failures and self-heal.
  • Full OpenStack support – the array works with OpenStack and supports all Cinder (block storage) API features. This includes QoS per volume and features like snapshotting and cloning.

The net of this to me is that this is really a cloud-ready array. But wait, there is more! SolidFire is actually being used by cloud providers. A couple of whom I think are pretty cool. One is CloudSigma who has an SSD-only IaaS solution that is built on SolidFire. Their CEO claims that they can provide the performance benefits of SSD while providing an IaaS stack that has about the same costs as traditional HDD technology running on KVM. The second one is Internap which has over 13,500 customers with more than 50K cores and also has an SSD IaaS solution. Internap offers the SolidFire SSD solution on OpenStack and delivers bare metal solutions to their customers for high transaction workloads. SolidFire also powers Rackspace, Nebula, and they have partnerships with Red Hat (again Dell bells should go off) and Mirantis.

So now I think I get why the folks at SolidFire are so excited – they have a great solution built on software (think SDS) for SSD that cloud providers are buying and delivering services on. This isn’t marketecture – this is the real deal and I think it is an important part of the shift in the way clouds are being built. Latency is a perceived problem in the cloud which SolidFire reduces. Massive IOPS are needed for many enterprise workloads and SolidFire is designed to deliver massive IOPS at scale. So whether your company is building a private cloud or a public cloud, open source or proprietary cloud OS - the current state - is solid-state.

Topics: Networking Cloud Services & Orchestration