Today, all-Flash storage vendor SolidFire announced the newest version of their array’s operating system, Element OS. In keeping with the “Element” theme, since this new OS version is the seventh generation of the OS, it is named “Nitrogen” — because Nitrogen is the seventh element on the periodic table.
This updated software adds four main new features, which I’ll go into detail about below. The new features include:
- Consistency Groups
- VLAN Tagging
- Mixed-node cluster support across hardware generations
- Support for Production Fibre Channel
With Nitrogen, SolidFire adds consistency groups for use with both local snapshots and remote replication.
A consistency group is a logical construct that allows an administrator to group volumes together and then set data protection policies for that group of volumes. This means that if you take a snapshot of the group, that snapshot is taken on all of the group’s volumes simultaneously. This ensures that the snapshot data is consistent across all the volumes — very useful for applications that span more than one volume. (The most commonly-cited example is database applications, where it is often best practice to store the database itself on one storage volume and the transaction logs on a separate volume.)
What’s the big deal? Consistency groups allow near-instant recovery from snapshots for applications. Inconsistent data across volumes causes delays in application start-up time, hence delays in recovery time. Consistency groups are a “must-have” feature of enterprise-grade storage.
SolidFire implements consistency groups without the need for any additional software or any additional licenses.
SolidFire has very strong messaging about their Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities and the degree of fine-tuning of QoS they’re able to provide. Adding VLAN Tagging is a very logical next step.
VLAN Tagging allows the separation of the physical network into multiple isolated virtual networks. This provides for increased security, increased isolation of workloads, isolation of traffic of different service levels, and isolation of fault domains.
Additionally, VLAN Tagging sets the foundation for SolidFire’s use in multi-tenant environments. Multiple tenants, all accessing the array via their own isolated VLAN is the ultimate QoS use case.
Furthermore, by adding VLAN Tagging, SolidFire becomes a more attractive option for virtual server environments. Pretty much every medium- to large-size VMware deployment I’m aware of uses VLANs as part of their infrastructure. With the addition of this functionality, it’s now easier to incorporate SolidFire storage into an existing virtualization environment without need to make changes to the network infrastructure.
In the Nitrogen release, SolidFire is limited to support for 16 VLANs (plus the default network). This limitation is based on what’s been tested and verified in the SolidFire labs, not on any technical limits. Expect future Element OS versions to increase the number of supported VLANs.
Mixed-node Cluster Support Across Hardware Generations
My previous post on SolidFire discussed their new hardware nodes, the SF2405 and SF4805.
With the Nitrogen release, SF2405 and SF 4805 hardware nodes running Nitrogen can be seamlessly incorporated into existing SolidFire clusters that were built using the SF3010, SF6010, or SF9010 nodes (or any combination of those nodes). In order for this to occur seamlessly (with no disruption and no downtime), the existing cluster must be running at least Carbon (Element OS version 6) Patch 2 or later.
Support for Production Fibre Channel
SolidFire was originally designed as an iSCSI array using 10GbE connectivity to hosts. Since many customers who require the performance of an all-Flash array already have some Fibre Channel infrastructure, SolidFire recognized the need to offer an FC connectivity option as well.
SolidFire accomplishes this by adding a diskless node to the cluster. This node is called the “SF Fibre Channel”. My previous post on SolidFire offers more detail.
The SF Fibre Channel nodes have been available for a few months now, but prior to the Nitrogen release, they could only be ordered as part of an early access program. With Nitrogen, the SF Fibre Channel nodes are supported for full-on Production deployment.
Orders for the SolidFire FC nodes can be placed now. These nodes have a standard lead time of two weeks.