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Simple vs Flexible - Where Nimble Storage Fits in HPE Storage

The other day I was talking to Doug Voigt, Distinguished Technologist in Storage at HPE. Doug is one of the few employees in HPE Storage that has been here longer than me - he started in the 1978 and like me has spent his entire career in storage. 

A history lesson on easy


I was reminiscing with Doug about a disk array we had in the mid-1990s, HP AutoRAID. AutoRAID was conceived in HP Labs, engineered by HP Storage, and was the epitome of simple. It was the first modular array that virtualized the storage pool behind it. It had two RAID levels: 5 and 10.  As an administrator, you made one decision: what size volume do you need. It was so simple you could create a volume from the front panel (see it in the picture, above the two controllers on the right). You didn't pick your RAID level - AutoRAID did that. It was a two tier storage hierarchical implementation . AutoRAID used RAID 10 as a fast tier and RAID 5 as a slower tier and "auto-magically" migrated data between them. In the early days of RAID, this was pretty cool because it was difficult for customers to decide what RAID level would be best for their applications and data. 

"Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein


Doug and I were talking about simple versus flexible. He reminded me that the thing that defines how simple something can be is the actual needs of the customer. The more flexibility the customer needs, the more complex the interaction. 

For example, database administrators wanted the ability to lock their data in RAID 10. And in later implementations of AutoRAID (called the VA 7400), we gave them that capability. More flexibility, more control, but a bit more complexity. 

Today in our array portfolio, we have arrays that give you lots of control via flexibility. For example: 

  • The XP Disk Array is not simple. There are lots of elements that you can control as a storage admin. 
  • The same with 3PAR, though it does make many things about managing storage easy because of the multiple levels of abstraction.  

Both of these arrays give the storage admin lots of options which translate to flexibility. 

Enter Nimble Storage

When I did my first ChalkTalk about Nimble Storage, toward the end I talked about positioning our storage portfolio. One of the big questions people have been asking is where do Nimble Storage and 3PAR fit. At the core, the positioning is:

  • 3PAR is the most flexible unified storage for the all-flash data center.
  • Nimble Storage is simplest with predictive and cloud-ready flash storage.

So what makes Nimble Storage simple? There are a few things that lead to the simplicity we see with Nimble:

  • Easy to order - Usually two line items.
  • Easy to install - Nimble abstracts everything and organizes the optimal layout. So no RAID groups, no choices of RAID, no trying to load balance. It will always just behave optimally. Also there are app-policies to even automate the optimization for particular apps.
  • Easy data services - You can run with dedupe, compression, thin provisioning, snapshots and more without impact. So you don’t have to try to trade off between performance/capacity/features.
  • Easy to support - The secret sauce here is InfoSight. You basically bypass level 1 and level 2 support. Some data points: 86% of issues are automatically opened and solved. Greater than 99.9999% measured availability. 54% of the cases that InfoSight finds are cases solved outside of storage. And all of this had added up to an amazing Net Promoter Score of 85.

We'll definitely dive more into this from all sides (3PAR, Nimble Storage) and help you better understand the flexibility and the simplicity of what they offer.  So a warning to my 3PAR and Nimble teams, I'm coming for you! For now, a good starting point are my Nimble Storage and 3PAR ChalkTalks. So here they are.