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Preview of the 2013 DCIG Private Cloud Storage Array Buyer’s Guide

Around two years ago the DCIG 2011 Enterprise Scale-Out Storage Buyer’s Guide was released. At the time we mentioned that scale-out systems were being used to store “Big Data” and create private storage clouds. Since then scale-out storage systems have become the foundation for building out private storage clouds which prompted DCIG to change the name of our refreshed Buyer’s Guide to better reflect the intended use case for these storage arrays.

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While the term “private storage cloud” is certainly hip and may be used a bit too liberally in today’s culture, this label is actually much more descriptive of what scale-out means for an end user rather than what it does technically for storage engineers.

In the last few years “the cloud” has moved from being a quasi-technical term to going main stream. A CFO’s executive assistant probably does not know what a “scale-out storage system” is or does. However she has probably heard of the term “storage cloud” and grasps at a high level what it can do for her company. By renaming this Buyer’s Guide to “Private Cloud Storage Array,” DCIG helps to better communicate how scale-out storage arrays are best deployed and leveraged in businesses.
That said, private cloud storage isn’t about ubiquitous access to users documents and pictures on every imaginable device. The savvy reader who will soon have the new Buyer’s Guide in their hands understands that the arrays presented in the DCIG 2013 Private Cloud Storage Array Buyer’s Guide are the building blocks for many different storage needs, most of which will never directly touch end users.
DCIG recognizes that many organizations will continue to view private clouds as a natural extension to their archiving and backup solutions. However, we believe that as this category matures organizations are becoming more willing to place mission critical data onto their cloud storage. To that end the refreshed Guide places more focus on management and other features that reflect the diverse ways scale-out storage arrays are being utilized. In particular, we’ve added a new category on VMware vSphere integration. We also have placed additional emphasis on features such as SSDs and other Flash technologies both for raw storage and use as cache.
One of the reasons we believe that this space is maturing is the emergence of products that are focused on solving specific problems. DCIG was very encouraged to find an all flash array from Nimbus Data Systems – its E-Class Flash Memory array – appearing in this Guide. 
At the other end of the spectrum is Gridstore. While owning the lowest price point in the survey it has provided a very unique value proposition for small enterprises that need simple, reliable, and resilient storage. By using a software driver that is installed on both servers and clients Gridstore moves the traditional controller out to the data consumers and off the storage device itself. While this limits the product’s use of more “traditional” storage it provides a useful option for many small enterprises.
Another unique entrant was Coraid. Coraid uses ATA-over-Ethernet (AoE) to provide a solution that should provide advantages in environments that require multi-pathing and high resiliency. Other unique products include object storage options from Cleversafe and DirectData Networks, a virtualization-in-a-box solution from Scale Computing, and a video and media focused scale-out solution from Pivot3. We also include more archiving focused products from IceWEB and Overland Storage.
This is not to say all the arrays we researched were focused on specific problem sets. Well known vendors such as Dell, EMC, HP, IBM and NetApp still provide several models intended for more general use. These models generally include more advanced features not present on products focused on a particular role.
DCIG was pleased to find the new Guide bore out at least one area we said we expected to see growth in the DCIG 2011 Enterprise Scale-Out Storage Buyer’s Guide. That Guide included only two vendors who supported deduplication, NetApp and Symantec. This Buyer’s Guide now includes seven vendors and ten models that support deduplication while Symantec no longer has a qualifying product. We further note that many of the vendors who do not offer deduplication are not positioning their private cloud storage arrays for the purpose of archiving. DCIG is encouraged by this trend.
Some other interesting statistics about the arrays in the Guide include:

  • 62% support at least 1 PB of raw storage capacity for the entire cluster
  • 60% support some portion of VMware’s VAAI (vStorage API Array Integration)
  • 59% of the models supported at least 48 TB of raw storage per node
  • 48% support some form of flash technology for raw storage
  • 38% of models that support NFS include support for NFS v4.1
  • 32% support 8 Gb FibreChannel
  • 1 model claims a tested configuration of over one (1) exabyte. Several other models have theoretical limits of over 1 XB
Stay tuned as the release of the DCIG 2013 Private Cloud Storage Array Buyer’s Guide is just around the corner.
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Ben Maas

About Ben Maas

Senior Analyst for DCIG. Linux Kool-Aid Drinker. Twins Groupie. Fascinated by anything with silicon wafers.

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