August 19th, 2012 by Brian Beeler
Nimbus Gemini Flash Array Announced - 10-Year Endurance with MLC SSDs
Nimbus Data has launched Gemini, their third generation flash array. Gemini looks and acts much like prior Nimbus arrays, but there are significant updates this time around, namely 10-year endurance our of consumer-grade MLC NAND and software-configurable interconnect ports that support Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand. The Nimbus Gemini is also highlighted by hot-swap dual-controller architecture for high-availability and self-healing flash drives.
From a storage perspective, Gemini supports block and file storage via front hot swap 24 2TB 15mm 2.5" SSDs; 48TB in a 2U rack enclosure. Systems are configurable with either a single or dual controller and either four QSFP ports per controller for Ethernet and InfiniBand or four SFP+ ports per controller for Ethernet and Fibre Channel. These ports are also software-programmable; by changing transceivers, users can switch from Ethernet to InfiniBand or Fibre Channel to Ethernet. With dual controllers the Gemini offers fully redundant high availability performance, and all components are hot swappable in the field, meaning easy service should something go wrong. Even the software updates are non-disruptive and integrated lights-out management gives admins more flexibility and ease of use.
The Gemini architecture also deploys a new take on write caching and data protection. Instead of using a controller-based write cache, which gets more complex with a dual controller high-availability design, Gemini uses a scale out model with write cache on each drive. Dubbed Distributed Cache Architecture (DCA), write cache expands as capacity expands and is visible to both controllers. The drives are also protected from power loss with capacitors, so on board backup batteries aren't required.
Nimbus credits their Parallel Memory Architecture (PMA) for Gemini's performance, which comes out at 12GB/s and over 1 million IOPS per 2U enclosure and is sustainable up to 90% capacity utilization. An entire rack of these arrays could support up to 1PB of capacity and 20 million IOPS. The Nimbus PMA allows all of the flash drives to operate at full speed in unison, which provides low latency and high throughput.
Gemini isn't just about speedy flash though, Nimbus is using consumer grade MLC NAND that they've been able to characterize and interface with at a low level to drive endurance claims of 10 years of 1.2PB of data writes per week, all without any loss in performance. Nimbus’ Flash Lifecycle Management technology handles system-wide wear leveling which elements hot spots on a single drive and is the key to consistent performance over time. To help customers understand the life of the flash in the array, Nimbus provides a dashboard that shows both real time and historical data for each array, providing a thorough understanding as to the health of each array.
Like other Nimbus arrays, Gemini is powered by the Nimbus HALO software stack which handles management of the array along with duties like: thin provisioning, deduplication, replication, snapshot, and encryption.
Pricing and Availability
The Nimbus Gemini will be available in 6TB, 12TB, 24TB and 48TB capacities in single or dual controller configurations, with general availability in Q4 of this year. Pricing is $8/GB raw, a 20% reduction over prior models.
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