GreenBytes today introduced Solidarity, and all-SSD evolution of their HA-3000 dual controller storage array. Solidarity is a major move forward for GreenBytes and allows the veteran startup company to compete in the new solid-state storage market. It is a respectable entry in the “disk replacement” segment of the market, with a reasonable balance between price, features, and performance.
From ZFS to HA-3000 to Solidarity
I first became aware of GreenBytes nearly four years ago, but the company has changed quite a bit since then. Originally founded to exploit OpenSolaris and the innovative ZFS file system, GreenBytes transformed from a software company to a storage array vendor. It is only logical that they continue their transition by adding solid-state storage to the mix.
GreenBytes is best known today for their GB-X Series (single controller) and HA-3000 (dual controller) storage arrays. Built on commodity hardware and running GreenBytes’ GO OS, these devices offer utility storage at a reasonable price.
GreenBytes’ “secret sauce” is the SSD tiering and real-time compression and deduplication included in their Globally Optimized OS and assisted by a special GZIP ASIC on the controller. GO OS is a fork of OpenSolaris and ZFS, but has long since diverged from the Sun/Oracle source tree.
Each GreenBytes array features intelligent SSD caching along with 1 or 2 TB hard disk drives for capacity. They also include an ultra fast RAM drive for file system transaction logs, making for a surprisingly complex yet functional storage array.
Introducing GreenBytes Solidarity
The Solidarity SSD Array Shares much technology with these previous GreenBytes devices: It appears to use the same GO OS, controllers, and chassis as the HA-3000. The 16 bay, dual controller storage server is loaded with 24 to 48 GB of RAM, 2 RAM drives, and 14 SSDs.
Solidarity systems can be ordered with either 480 or 960 GB SSDs, for total system capacity of 7.2 or 13.5 TB. Is possible to expand a Solidarity array with 15 more drives using SAS connectors, as well. Pricing starts around $100,000 for the 7.2 TB Solidarity system, and expansion shelves cost about half as much as a controller with equal capacity.
Like the HA-3000, Solidarity is iSCSI-only in terms of front-end connectivity. Each controller is equipped with four 1 Gb and two 10 Gb Ethernet ports, and the controllers can be configured in “dual-active” mode.
The Crowded Solid State Storage Array Market
GreenBytes is stepping into a hot an increasingly crowded market with Solidarity. Whiptail was the pioneer in the solid state disk replacement market segment, but a number of others (Pure Storage, Nimbus Data, and Violin to name a few) have joined the battle in the space. Even HP and Dell have shown up with all-SSD versions of their existing P4000 and EqualLogic arrays.
GreenBytes has a few differentiators with Solidarity, however. First, the company has long specialized in data deduplication and compression, two features that make solid-state storage arrays more affordable. Pure Storage boasts that the same feature makes their arrays effectively 80% cheaper than competing devices, a claim GreenBytes could echo. Also unusual is the tiered RAM cache featured in the Solidarity array, though it is not clear whether this is absolutely required in an SSD array.
On the flip side, Pure, Violin, and Whiptail will likely claim superiority to arrays like Solidarity and Nimbus which evolved from conventional hard disk-based systems. The challenge for GreenBytes, Nimbus, Dell, HP, and others is to prove that their systems are just as good as purpose-built solid-state arrays.
The interface question is interesting: Solidarity (like Dell EqualLogic and HP) is all-iSCSI, while Pure is all-Fibre Channel. Whiptail and Nimbus offer everything (iSCSI, FC and InfiniBand). The workmanlike image of iSCSI might not mesh with the high-performance potential of all-flash storage arrays, and customers will likely ask for FC or even InfiniBand in the future.
Then there is the matter of capacity: Solidarity maxes out at just 13.5 TB. The most eye-opening element of Nimbus’ recent E-Class array announcement was the sheer capacity of that system. One hopes that the rest of the market will soon exceed the 20 to 30 TB ceiling that currently hovers over all-SSD arrays.
- Advanced capacity optimization software (thin provisioning, deduplication, compression)
- Proven software with tiered RAM cache
- Dual-controller high-availability (dual-active) architecture
- 10 Gb iSCSI
- Sister products already on the VMware HCL
- No Fibre Channel support
- Limited scalability and maximum capacity
- No VMware VAAI or vCenter support
GreenBytes has evolved from software company to storage array company and proven itself able to survive in the cutthroat storage market. It remains to be seen whether the they can convince customers to take Solidarity seriously, but the introduction of this product was the right move for the company. We will be watching and hoping that they will add VMware compatibility and more capacity.