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NexGen Storage Is Back With A Renewed Focus On Flash Utilization

By - Source: NexGen Storage

NexGen Storage unveiled its new data management software, purpose-built to manage PCIe flash in hybrid HDD/SSD storage arrays. The company also announced four new third-generation hybrid storage arrays, part of the N5 Hybrid Flash Array portfolio.

You might remember NexGen from the early days of hybrid storage. The company was founded in 2010 and was acquired three years later by PCIe SSD maker Fusion-io. In July 2014, SanDisk acquired Fusion-io and quietly proceeded to spin-out NexGen, with the announcement coming out on January 8, 2015 (you can read more about this on Stephen Foskett's blog). SanDisk will remain a strategic supplier of the flash component for NexGen, but the storage company will function independently, retaining all intellectual property.

With a new vision in place, NexGen is hoping to change the flash conversation from capacity and how flash is configured to improved flash utilization, focusing on data management, automation, and workload prioritization.

"Our vision and roadmap for re-architecting the data path for PCIe flash using Storage QoS to ensure predictability for high-value, mission-critical data is more relevant than ever," said John Spiers, founder and CEO of NexGen Storage.

Recognizing that not all data stored on an array is important and that individual data sets have different business value, the company is rethinking how the data should be managed, focusing on improving the user experience.

"How do you ensure that the right data is in flash at the right time? How do you improve the utilization of it? That's what NexGen is about; it's about achieving that goal and we call that value-driven data management," Chris McCall, NexGen's SVP of marketing told Tom's IT Pro in an interview.

In its revamped N5 Hybrid Flash Array portfolio, NexGen is combining policy-based management, storage Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities, and automation with low-cost capacity by leveraging hard drives for the majority of the data and PCIe flash only for applications with mission-critical data. This is easier said than done, as the mission-critical data is a moving target and changes all the time. This is where the software-defined piece of the puzzle comes in.

NexGen's software allows customers to categorize data according to business priority and offers five policies within three service levels (mission critical, business critical, and non-critical) for simplified management of application performance. Prioritization is handled automatically in real-time on all application workloads. When business priorities change, customers can adjust the policies on the fly, and all policy changes take effect immediately.

NexGen Admin console showing policies and service levels. Image courtesy of NexGen.NexGen Admin console showing policies and service levels. Image courtesy of NexGen."You're changing the data path operation in real time, there's no data migration, it's all in real-time stuff," McCall explained. "Performance characteristics change without any data movement."

NexGen Admin console showing real-time performance monitoring. Image courtesy of NexGen.NexGen Admin console showing real-time performance monitoring. Image courtesy of NexGen.Prioritized Active Cache, the standout feature found in the software, improves the utilization of flash in the device. Compared to other hybrid storage arrays, it allows for more data to be stored and managed in flash, which transfers into cost savings.

"What we've done is isolated a virtual pool of flash capacity for writes, which have to be in a highly available state where we mirror it. But then we reserve the bulk of the capacity for read cache, and that allows us to only store one copy of the data in flash, and then we can have the other copy for high availability on disk," said McCall. "That gives us 80 percent utilization of flash capacity, and that's a 150 percent improvement over previous versions."

Another key software feature includes integration with VMware's vSphere Storage APIs -- Array Integration (VAAI) through a vSphere plugin.

NexGen Admin console showing response times for different applications. Image courtesy of NexGen.NexGen Admin console showing response times for different applications. Image courtesy of NexGen.The PCIe flash component within the device has a couple of advantages as well; one of them is increased bandwidth, and the other is the ability to scale capacity non-disruptively. This also means NexGen is able to maximize the array's density while retaining performance and efficiency.

NexGen's new N5 Hybrid Flash Array lineup includes four models:


N5-200N5-300N5-500N5-1000
PCIe Flash2 TB
(scales to 7.2 TB)
2.6 TB
(scales to 7.8 TB)
5.2 TB
(scales to 10.4 TB)
10.4 TB
(scales to 15.6 TB)
Raw Capacity32 TB
(scales to 128 TB)
64 TB
(scales to 256 TB)
64 TB
(scales to 256 TB)
64 TB
(scales to 256 TB)
IOPS150K200K225K250K
Price$55,000 $99,000 $144,000 $199,000

The new software is shipping on all new NexGen systems and is available for existing customers as a download. To learn more about NexGen's storage hardware and software, visit nexgenstorage.com.

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