Nimbus joins iSCSI crowd

Intransa lowers IP SAN costs

By Dave Simpson

Start-up Nimbus Data Systems last month began shipments of a 500GB (model IPS-500) native iSCSI disk array priced at $4,995. A 1TB version (IPS-1000) with four 250GB drives is also available. The arrays are scalable to 8TB and are based on parallel ATA disk drives with support for Serial ATA drives due early next year.

The arrays, which can be used to build IP SANs, are based on Nimbus' software-only iSCSI target code, as opposed to hardware designs based on TCP/IP offload engines (TOEs). According to Tom Isakovich, Nimbus founder and CEO, a tight coupling of the software-only target and software-based RAID provides performance advantages over some competing iSCSI-based disk arrays. (Isakovich was previously the founder of now-defunct TrueSAN.)

Nimbus is the latest entrant in a crowded market. iSCSI disk arrays are also available from vendors such as Adaptec, American Megatrends Inc. (AMI), Dell (which OEMs an iSCSI array from EMC), EMC, EqualLogic, Intransa, LeftHand Networks, Network Appliance, Overland Storage, Promise Technology, and Snap Appliance (which was recently acquired by Adaptec).

Isakovich hopes to differentiate Nimbus' arrays based on low cost, high performance (the company claims 100MBps), and simplicity.

The arrays ship with management software that includes tools for configuring, monitoring, partitioning, provisioning, LUN masking, and synchronous mirroring, and fail-over (RAID 1). The company plans to add software functions such as asynchronous replication and snapshots in the future. In addition to RAID, the appliances support security standards such as CHAP and IPSec.

Addressing the issue of whether end users need host-based iSCSI acceleration cards for IP SANs, Isakovich says that 90% of the company's early users just use free iSCSI software drivers from Microsoft (for Windows environments) or open-source Linux drivers. Isakovich only recommends iSCSI acceleration cards with TOEs in two scenarios:

  • If the customer is running a database application on Linux. "The iSCSI initiator for Linux isn't quite as good as Microsoft's iSCSI driver so you do get a performance boost in Linux if you use a TOE-based iSCSI adapter," says Isakovich.
  • If the customer wants to boot from the IP SAN.

For users that do require an iSCSI host bus adapter, Nimbus recommends QLogic's iSCSI HBAs.

Nimbus is targeting small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and applications such as e-mail/file/Web server consolidation, clustering, disaster recovery, disk-to-disk backup, and database applications. The IPS subsystems are available online (www.goiscsi.com), and Nimbus is in the process of recruiting VARs.

Intransa drops prices

Also on the iSCSI front, Intransa last month introduced a lower-cost subsystem in its IP line of iSCSI appliances. The IP 3000 disk array is priced at $32,000 in a 2TB configuration, or $38,000 for a 4TB version, including management software and snapshot functionality.

Unlike Intransa's dual-controller IP 5000, the IP 3000 comes with one controller and does not include high-availability features such as fail-over and load balancing.

Intransa claims performance figures of 70,000 I/Os per second (based on the iometer benchmark). Features include storage virtualization, mirroring, host access control, online capacity expansion, and simplified installation and deployment via templates.

Separately, Intransa announced that it has secured an additional $25 million in Series D funding, bringing its total equity investment to $74 million.

This article was originally published on September 01, 2004