Friday, 22nd October 2021
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SSDs underpin QoS in the Cloud

DCS talks to Jay Prassl, VP Sales & Marketing at SolidFire, about how the company’s all-SSD networks storage technology is helping customers make the transition from siloed IT to delivering business critical applications via cloud infrastructure.

Q Can you provide some background on SolidFire – When formed,
why and by whom?

A Dave Wright, SolidFire’s founder and CEO, sold his company JungleDisk to well known hosting service provider Rackspace. During his time at Rackspace Dave became intimately familiar with many of the unique challenges facing cloud service providers and one area in particular was high performance block storage. Frustrated by the lack of commercially available solutions from 3rd party storage vendors upon which to build a profitable, high performance, cloud storage service, Dave left Rackspace in 2009 to found SolidFire. Dave has hired a talented team with a diverse set of experiences that span companies such as Skype, LeftHand Networks, EMC, 3Par, Savvis, VMware and others.

Q Are you a pure play storage networking company, or do you
prefer to be characterised differently?

A SolidFire provides an all-SSD network storage technology designed specifically for companies building large public or private cloud infrastructure capable of delivering predictable performance to thousands of applications. So from the pure technical perspective we deliver a complete scale-out storage technology. But if you take a wider view that incorporates the rise of cloud computing, SolidFire plays a much larger role in the shift from siloed IT to delivering business critical applications via cloud infrastructure. One of the largest barriers to this shift is the performance variability that characterises most of today’s cloud infrastructures. SolidFire’s patient pending Quality of Service (QoS) technology is native to the system architecture and eliminates performance variability entirely - paving the way for high performance applications to be confidently delivered via cloud infrastructure.

Q In general terms, what are the USPs that SolidFire brings to the
storage networking market(s)?

A SolidFire has built a scale-out solid-state storage system to meet the primary storage needs of those deploying large public and private cloud infrastructures. We differentiate the system in four key areas:

Performance Virtualisation and Guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS)
Within a SolidFire system, customers are capable of managing storage performance independent of storage capacity. This is a revolutionary capability that allows providers to be more accurate in their resource allocation, and eliminates the “storage sprawl” that comes with adding spindles just to increase application performance. Native to independent performance management is the SolidFire QoS technology that allows a provider to guarantee application performance will be consistently delivered, regardless of system function or application activity.
In-line Efficiency
SolidFire raises storage efficiency by leveraging in-line deduplication and compression across the entire storage system. These techniques raise storage system efficiency and allow SolidFire to deliver effective storage capacity at or below the cost of traditional high-performance disk. Due to the scale out architecture design, SolidFire storage systems are capable of reaching utilisation rates of over 85%.

Automated Management
SolidFire allows for complete automation of the entire storage system through a comprehensive REST-based API. The API enables cloud providers to automate every aspect of storage management including deployment, troubleshooting, security, reporting, billing, and performance management. And allows cloud providers to integrate new primary storage seamlessly into current cloud management and orchestration layers, creating efficiencies that actually improve with scale - not the other way around.

Cloud Scale
SolidFire leverages a scale-out architecture in which storage systems are created through the combination of up to 100 storage nodes. Each node is a self-contained storage appliance containing an optimum balance of performance and capacity. The resources of each node within are aggregated enabling single instance capacities of over 2PB and 5 million IOPS. And expanding a SolidFire system is done simply, and without service disruption, through the addition of new nodes to the system

Q You make a big play around guaranteeing performance –
Why is that?

A Today’s cloud infrastructure is not designed to support business critical or performance sensitive applications. To support these applications cloud providers require a storage solution capable of delivering performance that is both predictable, and that can be guaranteed regardless of system condition or application activity. Unlike traditional enterprise IT, cloud providers have no visibility to the applications customers are running or how customers are utilising the shared infrastructure.

Within traditional storage architectures one “noisy neighbor” can consume all performance resources causing poor and variable performance for all other applications. The solution to variable performance within a multi-tenant infrastructure is the ability to deliver guaranteed Quality of Service.

As you can imagine many storage vendors have begun to talk about Quality of Service features within their products, but not all QoS is the same. We believe that Quality of Service is not a feature that can be added on after the fact to a storage system that was not designed for it, but rather QoS is an architectural concept that must be considered and implemented at the very core of storage system design.

To help customers differentiate between QoS features that solve only part the performance variability problem, from comprehensive QoS capable of guaranteeing performance we developed the Quality of Service (QoS) Benchmark.

We believe that the ability to guarantee storage performance will help cloud providers increase both the number and type business critical applications in their cloud.
Q How is SolidFire able to provide this Quality of Service better
than other storage vendors?

A As I mentioned above, true Quality of Service (QoS) is an architectural concept that must be considered at the core of system design. SolidFire’s all-SSD storage has been designed form the ground up to deliver guaranteed storage performance regardless of system condition or application activity.

Added QoS features such as rate limiting, prioritisation, or tiering algorithms may solve one performance bottleneck under an isolated condition, but these approaches fall apart at cloud scale as conditions multiply across a multi-tenant infrastructure. A true solution requires a purpose-built storage architecture that solves performance problems comprehensively, not individually.

With the QoS benchmark storage architecture, SolidFire has set the standard for what is required to deliver an exact level of performance within multi-tenant infrastructures.

Q Your technology is based around the QoS Benchmark
Architecture – can you explain a little bit about this?

A To help customers differentiate between QoS features that solve only part the performance variability problem, from comprehensive QoS capable of guaranteeing performance we developed the Quality of Service (QoS) Benchmark. We believe that only storage systems capable of meeting this six architectural requirements are capable of delivering guaranteed storage Quality of Service (QoS)

£ All SSD Architecture - Enables the delivery of consistent latency
for every I/O
£ True Scale-Out Architecture - Allows for linear, predictable
performance gains as the system scales
£ RAID-Less Data Protection - Ensures predictable performance
despite any failure condition
£ Balanced Load Distribution - Removes hot spots that create
unpredictable I/O latency
£ Fine-Grain QoS Control - Completely eliminates noisy neighbors
and guarantees volume performance
£ Performance Virtualisation - Controls performance independent of
capacity and on demand

Q And the Element Operating System is a key part of this
architecture?

A SolidFire’s Element Operating System (Element OS) is designed to deliver all of the functionality required to manage and maintain application performance within a large multi-tenant cloud infrastructure. SolidFire’s Element OS combines the following features:

£ Guaranteed QoS - Fine-grain control for setting, managing and
guaranteeing performance for every application in a multi-tenant
infrastructure
£ Performance Virtualisation - Enables allocation of performance
independent of capacity, without incurring the capacity sprawl and
low utilisation rates common with traditional disk-based systems.
£ Helix Data Protection - Patent-pending distributed data protection
solution that eliminates the performance-sapping impact of
traditional RAID-based systems.
£ Efficiency - Breakthrough in-line data reduction technology
for significantly increasing usable capacity without impacting
performance.
£ Scalability - A scale-out storage architecture that eliminates
capacity sprawl and allows for growth without downtime or
performance impact.
£ Automated Management - Intuitive, easy-to-use REST-based API
for automating the provisioning and management of the entire
storage system.

Q And there’s a Storage System as well?

A SolidFire storage systems combine the Element OS with an all-SSD architecture to deliver and maintain a predictable storage experience.
£ SSD: 2.5” SSD is the building block of storage in the nodes which
make up a SolidFire cluster
£ MLC, eMLC, SLC, other (or mixed):
£ MLC
£ Capacity range(s): 60TB-2PB+ of effective capacity in a single
cluster
£ Connectivity – (2) 10GbE SFP+ iSCSI (2) 1GbE RJ45 management
(per node)
£ Read and write performance metrics:
Approximately 50k 4K random IOPS per-node: 250k-5 million+
IOPS per cluster (can do this at a wide range of read/write mixes)
£ Read and write cycles (endurance and reliability) metrics:
Designed for 5-year duty cycle as a primary storage system.
£ Management software:
At the core of the solution is a comprehensive REST based API.
We also provide a CLI and Web based management interface both
which call the API functionality.
£ Pricing
Product is designed to be competitive with $/GB of high-
performance disk-based.
£ Any other relevant, brief product details (if needed):
SolidFire offers a true Scale-Out clustered storage architecture
made up of 1U SF3010 “node” building blocks. Capacity and
performance are pooled within the cluster and both parameters
scale linearly as the cluster expands from 5 to 100 nodes.
Q Finally, can you tell us something about the eScanner Tool?

A The SolidFire eScanner tool is a simple command line utility that scans a dataset to determine the exact amount capacity that would be saved if that dataset were moved to a SolidFire storage system. eScanner allows customers to see the amount of thin provisioning, compression, and deduplication that is achievable within their current systems, and quickly discover firsthand the efficiency benefits of deploying a SolidFire solution.

Q You are also keen to be associated with the OpenStack
program – Why is this?

OpenStack matters because platform choice is integral to fostering innovation and growth in the cloud computing market. OpenStack, and its related services, are strategic building blocks for customers looking to build a cloud infrastructure than can accommodate the cost and Quality of Service (QoS) demands from a dynamic and expanding user base. SolidFire has dedicated resources to drive real contributions to the OpenStack community.

Unlike other vendors we are not limiting our efforts to basic plug-in architecture development or integrating with a restricted subset of available features. Instead, we deliver the industry’s most comprehensive support for the Cinder block storage service. Going forward, we are focused on driving continued improvements in the Cinder block storage architecture to ensure it can exploit the most advanced, next generation storage functionality.

Q You have the Fueled by SolidFire program for the Channel –
What is involved in this initiative?

The Fueled by SolidFire™ program is a comprehensive program designed to compliment our customer’s go-to-market activities and help ensure their overall market success. The Fueled by SolidFire™ logo is a rapidly recognised brand that signals to cloud customers, the solution they are purchasing is built on SolidFire’s high performance storage system that offers consistent and guaranteed application performance. SolidFire is committed to assisting our customers in the development, productisation and marketing of solutions Fueled by SolidFire™.

In support of these efforts we have developed a program that will help them get their Fueled By SolidFire™ solution to market faster and with more revenue generating impact on their business. The goal of the Fueled by SolidFire™ program is to deliver a level of service and support to our customers that sets the industry standard for what it means to be trusted solution partner.

Benefits of the Fueled By SolidFire Program:
£ Go-to-Market guidance for the pricing, positioning and packaging
of a cloud service providers Fueled by SolidFire™ solution
£ Assistance generating benchmark data for use in marketing
collateral (e.g. whitepaper, case study, video testimonial)
£ Onsite training to cloud service providers Sales and Sales
Engineering Teams
£ Onsite systems Integration support
£ Co-branding and co-marketing to help accelerate time-to-revenue
£ Links to Fueled by SolidFire solution page from SolidFire website
£ Fueled By SolidFire™ signage available for their office / facility /
datacentre / industry events
Q How successful has your Channel strategy been to date?

A We have publicly announced 7 customers and have cloud providers world wide in evaluation of the SolidFire technology. We currently sell our products direct to customers.

Q Are there verticals and/or geographical areas that you are
looking to target over the coming months?

A SolidFire’s storage systems were architected from the ground up for those deploying large public or private cloud infrastructures. Due to the geographic independence of cloud computing we are working with cloud providers world-wide.

Q Are you able to share one or two customer win stories with us?

A We have many customer success stories but I would highlight two in particular:
CloudSigma - CloudSigma is an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider headquartered in Switzerland with an expanding cloud presence across Europe and the United States. SolidFire’s combination of performance and Quality of Service (QoS) enabled CloudSigma to effectively meet their customers’ high-performance requirements in a way that previously was not possible with legacy disk-based systems.

They now serve all their customers’ virtual machines from the SolidFire platform and have re-purposed their current disk-based systems for use as object storage.

With SolidFire, CloudSigma has achieved:
£ A cost-competitive solution
to the IOPS bottleneck
£ Significant growth in
the number and types
of workloads that can
be hosted in their
cloud
£ Perfect provisioning
alignment
£ Customer loss and
SLA penalty
avoidance
£ Positive impact
beyond storage
(CPU, RAM,
networking, etc.)
£ Scale efficiency
£ Complete API control

DataBarracks - Established in 2003, Databarracks is one of the UK’s first providers of managed backup and virtual disaster recovery services.

SolidFire’s storage system was uniquely suited to deliver the requirements Databarracks demanded of their next generation of cloud storage.
The ability to provision
flexible volume sizes and guaranteed IOPS allocation without having to segment out different tiers of storage is an ideal solution to address Databarracks’ business case. With SolidFire, Databarracks has achieved:
£ A viable, working alternative to dedicated disk
£ More VMs with less footprint
£ The ability to linearly scale
performance when adding capacity
£ Independent provisioning of performance and capacity
£ In-line data reduction techniques
£ Automated operational processes

Q What can we expect from SolidFire during the next 12 to
18 months?

A You can expect a continued focus on the execution of our plan to enable cloud service providers to deliver guaranteed performance services to their customers and to help them drive towards greater profitability and differentiation.

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