SolidFire Announces New Hardware Node, FlashForward Guarantees, and Software-Only Offering

SolidFire logoYesterday, SolidFire released a hat-trick of announcements:

I’ll walk through each of the announcements below.

The SF9605 Node

The new node, the SF9605 grows SolidFire’s hardware offerings to five different node types, all of which can be used together in a SolidFire cluster.

How it Fits In

If you look at things like I do (trying to see how things fit together and which solutions I want to have ready to solve which particular uses), you may have noticed a gap in the SolidFire portfolio. They had decent-performing (50,000 IOPS), lower capacity nodes, and they had a high-performing (75,000 IOPS), high-capacity node, but they didn’t have anything in that “middle ground” area. The previous additions to their portfolio, helped narrow the gap, but the gap was still there.

SolidFire Hardware Family Portrayed as GearsThat’s where the SF9605 comes in. It fills (or bridges — whichever metaphor you prefer) that middle-ground gap.

The SF9605 has the same capacity of the SF9010 (34.5TB effective capacity per 1U node) and offers the same level of performance as the SF2405 and SF4805 nodes (50,000 IOPS per node).

By combining the capacity of their high-end, with the performance of their low-end, SolidFire is able to offer the SF9605 at the lowest cost per GB of effective capacity of anything in their portfolio.

Specifications

I can’t talk about new hardware without going to the specs at some point, so here are the details on the new node, plus those of the other members of the SolidFire family:

SolidFire Hardware Specs

Requirements

The SF9605 will only run ElementOS Nitrogen or later. This means that any customers wishing to add SF9605 nodes to existing SolidFire clusters will need to upgrade the cluster to Nitrogen first.

Availability

SolidFire is accepting orders for the SF9605 now. The new nodes will start shipping on 9 March.


FlashForward Program

The FlashForward Program is really a combination of two guarantees SolidFire is offering to customers who are under support contract with SolidFire: the Platform Compatibility Guarantee and the Unlimited Wear Guarantee.

Platform Compatibility Guarantee

When customers are looking at storage purchases, they always have concerns about how long an investment they’re making. Moore’s Law still rules the reality of the tech landscape, and new innovations and technologies are coming out all the time. Customers want to know they’re investing wisely and can minimize the number of complete refreshes they’ll have to do over time.

SolidFire’s Platform Compatibility Guarantee is a promise to its customers that any future hardware nodes will be able to interoperate with existing SolidFire infrastructure. With their Nitrogen release of the Element OS operating system, they’ve added this backwards-/future-compatibility capability, and they’re guaranteeing that they’ll continue that as they move forward. When new nodes become available, customers can just add them to an existing SolidFire cluster and have things work.

Additionally, SolidFire is promising that all future versions of their software will run on existing nodes.

The one caveat for the Platform Compatibility Guarantee (and, I think, a fairly minor one) is that in order to qualify for this guarantee the hardware nodes in question must be under an active support contract with SolidFire.

Unlimited Wear Guarantee

When you start talking about all-Flash storage, someone will always bring up concerns about drive wear. The concerns are valid — Flash doesn’t handle having the same blocks (or cells) being written to over and over as well as some other media.

SolidFire is offering to put their customers’ concerns in this area to rest. They’re confident enough in what they’ve built into their systems that they are guaranteeing their drives against wear. They offer this guarantee without any restrictions around use case or workload. Again, the only caveat is that the system must be under an active support contract with SolidFire.


ElementX

SolidFire ElementXTo me, personally, this was the most interesting/exciting of the three announcements (which is probably why I saved it for last). ElementX is SolidFire’s software-only offering. It will allow customers to run the SolidFire engine on clusters of all-Flash nodes that they build themselves.

Even the idea of an offering like this is a recognition of several factors in the industry today:

  • The entirety of SolidFire’s value-add and intellectual property is in their algorithms and software — not in hardware
  • There’s an increased demand for the ability to run intelligent storage software on commodity hardware
  • The largest customers (and I’m thinking specifically about Service Providers and ${Whatever}aaS vendors here) most often already have well-established supply chains and agreements in place, and are buying in such volume, that they can often acquire the hardware at a lower cost than SolidFire can

(Yes, I should probably apply for a trademark on the ${Whatever}aaS (Whatever-as-a-Service) term…)

It’s this group of customers, the large Service Providers — the folks interested in building out at what SolidFire calls hyper-scale — that ElementX is designed for.

In order to use ElementX, a customer will need to run on pre-validated hardware, and — as long as they’re doing so — SolidFire will offer full Level 3 support on clusters running ElementX.

At this time only two hardware platforms have been pre-validated to qualify for ElementX, but SolidFire has plans to add more. The two currently-pre-validated platforms are:

  • Cisco UCS C-Series rackmount servers
  • Dell PowerEdge rackmount servers

Part of what’s so interesting about this is that it’s a whole new consumption model for SolidFire — and really, still a fairly new one in the industry as a whole. I’ll be curious to see how big the largest build-your-own SolidFire cluster grows to be.

New consumption models are offering more choice to the consumer, a situation that definitely favors the customers.

Availability

If you’ve got the right use case and supply-base for it, ElementX is available for licensing now.

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