SimpliVity Announce OmniCube Storage Appliance

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with  Jesse St. Laurent, Product Director at a new storage startup called SimpliVity. SimpliVity finally exited stealth mode today, but has been around since the end of 2009, with development starting in earnest in 2010.

The name of the hardware storage appliance which SimpliVity have just announced is the OmniCube. Having asked Jesse to describe the features of the appliance, he listed the following:

  • The OmniCube is a 2U hardware Storage Appliance which has a pre-installed & pre-configured ESXi hypervisor. The appliances are deployed in configurations of 2 or more nodes and use a combination of SimpliVity software and PCIe accelerator cards, both of which are intellectual property (IP) of SimpliVity.
  • It deduplicates & compresses all data at inception – there is no need for a third-party appliance/component to deliver this. Jesse stated that they can achieve 1.5:1 for both dedupe and 1:1.5 for compression, but said he was being very conservative with this estimate.
  • The appliance provides space efficient snapshots for backup & other purposes which are VM-centric. Many backup and replication products work off of a whole datastore – SimpliVity works at the VM level.
  • The appliance supports a combination of HDD & SSD for cache & performance reasons.
  • There is a High Availability feature across multiple OmniCubes located in the same DC.
  • There is replication across OmniCubes in different datacenters for BC/DR purposes.
  • The appliance is based on a scale out architecture so customers can start out small-scale and then grow as their performance and capacity requirements grow.
  • The datastore created by SimpliVity is NFS – therefore this storage can also be shared with other hosts and VMs in the infrastructure.
  • The storage is VM-centric in so far as the deployment of VMs is policy driven (i.e. backup/snapshots policy, DR/Replication policy and supports per VM failover). Many traditional approaches require customers to snapshot or replicate complete datastores when in fact you may only be interested in one or more of the VMs on the datastore. SimpliVity have the ability to snap and replicate on a per-VM basis. I asked about whether SimpliVity has a policy to define QoS for the VMs (both for network & storage), and although the appliance is plumbed-in for these sorts of policies under the covers, it is not yet exposed so will not available at GA.

SimpliVity Omnicube

SimpliVity’s OmniCube is powered by Omnistack: the software (SVT in the above diagram) and the PCIe accelerator card. The Omnistack is designed to work with your typical DAS server. One of the other nice features of the appliance is that it is cloud ready – SimpliVity support their Omnistack (without the hardware acceleration) running in a public cloud. At the time of writing, they are only supporting it on Amazon’s EC2, . What this does mean however is that you can have DR to the Cloud pretty much out of the box. The other neat thing is that you can clone and backup across datacenters to any Omnistack instance, and restore from any instance too, including the one based in the cloud.

I put the following questions to Jesse.

  • Q. What is SimpliVity’s target market?
  • A. Jesse expected customers to start using SimpliVity storage for the tier2 applications, but added that their storage is designed to run any application running on VMware today. SimpliVity feels that current storage offerings are either too complex or too expensive. As I have not yet seen the product in action or any pricing from SimpliVity, I guess time will tell whether SimpliVity is less complex or less expensive than the competition.
  • Q. How does SimpliVity differentiate itself from the many other storage appliances operating in this space?
  • A. Jesse stated that he believed that the SimpliVity appliance was feature complete. Jesse stated that a lot of customers were faced with a proliferation of appliances to provide the complete feature set that SimpliVity provides, such as dedupe/compression appliances and cloud gateways.
  • Q. What sort of vSphere integration is there?
  • A. SimpliVity have a plugin to vCenter which allows the SimpliVity appliance(s) to be managed from the vSphere client. All nodes can be managed (same datacenter, different datacenter, nodes in the cloud) from the same management interface.
  • Q. What other components are required for deployment?
  • A. The is a PCIe ‘accelerator’ card required on the hosts. This Omnicube accelerator card is SimpliVity Intellectual Property. There is also a requirement to have 10GbE connectivity between the hosts, but in small configurations, SimpliVity will support direct connect.

It does seems like a very nice solution and I’m looking forward to seeing a live demo at VMworld 2012. SimpliVity are a gold sponsor at VMworld 2012 this year and you will find them at booth 1117.

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