The HPE Nimble Storage AF All Flash Series of solid-state technology storage systems use flash storage only and have common software with the earlier CS Series that used flash with spinning disk as backing store. The Adaptive Flash Series, denoted as HF, are Secondary Flash systems which contain SSDs and HDDs as target systems for backup or secondary storage. HPE Nimble Storage has multiple models in the two families and the largest in each family can be clustered for four systems. All models utilize a similar architecture with different amounts of CPU, DRAM, and Flash SSD within the controller for differentiation.
The HPE Nimble Storage Series use standard server hardware and NAND Flash SSDs. A base system has a fixed number of devices and depending on the model, additional enclosures may be added.
The HPE Nimble Storage All Flash systems are designed for data to remain on the SSDs rather than be offloaded to HDDs like the Adaptive Flash models. The HPE Nimble Storage AF80 and HF60 systems support clustering to provide a scale out architecture. Advanced features of data compression, deduplication, snapshots, encryption, shredding, pinning of volumes in Flash or disk, and asynchronous replication are included in the base system. Deduplication is not supported on the HF20C model.
A triple parity RAID is used across the devices for data protection in case of a device failure. Business continuity utilizes replication between Nimble and HPE 3PAR storage systems with Peer Persistence.
All features are included in the base price of HPE Nimble systems and include data compression, deduplication, snapshots, remote replication, and integration with host-level software such as VMware and Microsoft Windows. Host access is through iSCSI with 10GigE or 1GigE interfaces and Fibre Channel with 16 Gb/s Gen 5 interfaces. Currently, the capacity, along with some increased performance is achieved by adding additional enclosures to a controller system.
All scaling operations are non-disruptive and when additional systems are added to the cluster, data is automatically balanced across the cluster. System controllers utilize an active – passive design, with all writes mirrored in NVRAM to enable non-disruptive high availability.
Clustered nodes are added using a PCIe interconnects, using an Intel NTB (Non Transparent Bridge) technology. The maximum number of four clustered systems requires each controller have sufficient DRAM. Intermixing product families is not recommended.
Compression is performed inline as data is written to the HPE Nimble Storage system and decompressed on host access. All data stored internally is in compressed format, increasing the effective capacity and the internal bandwidth. Remote replication transfers only compressed data, reducing the amount of data transferred, which in turn, reduces the bandwidth required.
Nimble has NVMe protocol for SCM devices, currently used for caching.
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The HPE Nimble Storage All-Flash and Adaptive Flash systems are an update to the earlier CS hybrid systems. No changes were made other than the replacement of HDDs in the hybrid system with SSDs for the all flash models and configuration changes for adaptive flash models. The HPE Nimble systems were designed as flash with a backing store of HDDs. The all flash models effectively expand the flash capacity with no destage of data. HPE Nimble has been very successful with an early flash system targeted at the entry and mid-tier markets. The systems are block storage only but have included many of the needed features for enterprises including encryption, data reduction, snapshots and asynchronous replication. Missing is synchronous replication and stretched cluster support.
The systems are active/passive, allowing the standby controller to take over after a failure for high availability. Evaluator Group believes that eventually HPE Nimble will release active/active data transfer capability. HPE Nimble continues to be successful with a low cost system.
Multiple models can be a bit confusing when the largest model supports scale-out. The models allow for different price points – enable competitive sales. The scale-out of the largest system is limited to four node with the use of Non-Transparent Bridging.
The HPE Nimble systems have been very successful in entry to mid markets and will continue to do well with the low entry prices.