02 Jul

Nimble: The Next Generation SAN

When we started selling virtualization solutions several years ago, we needed to find a good storage vendor to work with. Even though we primarily sell Cisco solutions, Cisco doesn’t have a storage offering. And you really can’t do virtualization without a SAN (at least not if you want any of the advanced features). So our quest began.

We looked at several companies including EMC, Netapp, and Dell Equalogic. All of these vendors seemed to offer the same storage solution, just packaged differently. Then we came across a newcomer, Nimble Storage. Nimble was attacking the market differently and had a very unique product.

Typically with most SANs, you lose about half of the raw storage due to resiliency requirements (RAID). So if you have 12TB of raw storage, you usually end up with only 6TB of useable. Not so with Nimble. Nimble has built-in compression that allows you to gain back all of the lost space. So if you have 12TB raw, you have 12TB useable. Nimble is able to do this through the use of multi-core CPUs on the system that enable it to compress without any degradation in storage performance.

Whenever you do virtualization, you likely will use a type of system backup called snapshots. Snapshots allow you to make a replica of an entire virtual machine at an instant in time, allowing you to easily rollback an entire virtual machine with a few clicks. The downside with snapshots usually is that they eat up a lot of diskspace. Not so with Nimble. Nimble has built into their product the ability to take a snapshot and then with each additional snapshot, only capture the data that has changed, thus significantly reducing the total storage requirements.

Nimble is also able to provide a significant performance increase by utilizing flash. Nimble was designed from the ground up to utilize a flash memory system. It wasn’t bolted on like other vendors. All read/write activity goes through the flash first and as a result provides a major performance increase. It also allows Nimble to use slower and less expensive hard drives. Instead of using 15k or 10k RPM drives, they can use 7.2K drives.

Nimble leverages the cloud and Big Data to collect information about all of their hardware. This enables their customers to easily generate reports on various types of usage or to see the performance of the system. It also enables Nimble to automatically see if there are any issues arising and to be proactive in dealing with them. And if there is an issue, there are only 4 components to deal with: Hard Drives, Power Supplies, Fans, and Controllers. All redundant, and easily field replaceable. This makes for a very simple solution to maintain.

Whether you are new to virtualization, haven’t purchased a SAN yet, or just need to refresh your SAN, I would highly recommend taking a close look at Nimble Storage for your next storage solution. Take a look at our Nimble Storage page for more information. As always, if you have questions, please reach out to us.

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12 Jun

Cisco: #1 In Blade Server Market

Cisco began selling servers about 5 years ago now, and this past quarter became the #1 supplier of blade servers in North America.  This is a pretty significant win for Cisco since their critics didn’t believe that Cisco could make a dent.  In fact, Cisco is the only vendor that continues to grow their market share, while other vendors (IBM, HP, Dell) are shrinking.
Server virtualization continues to be a very hot area of technology.  We have numerous customers that have seen their server farms go from 50 servers to 10 servers.  And with Cisco’s technology, we are seeing that halved again.   What used to consume several racks of space now barely takes half a rack.  The data center is shrinking.

So what does this mean to you?  All we ask is that when it’s time for you to refresh even one of your existing servers, that you give us an opportunity to demonstrate a Cisco solution.  Cisco has a compelling argument and is very competitive.  Even if you are not interesting in blade servers but just want to refresh standalone servers, Cisco has an offering for that.

The key difference in Cisco’s technology is how they integrate the server platform with 10gig.  Cisco looks at it not as separate components to be managed individually, but as a complete server and networking domain such that we can manage the servers and the 10gig fabric as an entire system.  This brings performance and management to a whole new level.

Cisco is able to bring 10gig solutions to the table where most competitors are still only doing multiple 1gig uplinks.  If the cost is comparable, why not invest in 10gig?  We all know how much bandwidth virtualization wants to have in order to easily move virtual machines back and forth between servers, or for fast access to storage.  10gig gets you there.  And Cisco bundles that in to their solution.

Before you make your next purchase, contact us and let us show you how Cisco blade servers could be the right solution for your network needs.

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