Nimbus claims iSCSI ‘firsts’

By Dave Simpson

Start-up Nimbus Data Systems last month unveiled iSCSI-based IP SAN systems that the company claims have a number of unique features to differentiate them from iSCSI systems from more-established vendors such as EqualLogic, Intransa, LeftHand Networks, and Network Appliance.

Among the unique, or somewhat unique, features of Nimbus’ Breeze MX4 and 10G arrays and software are

Support for 10Gbps Ethernet (as well as Gigabit Ethernet);

Support for primary drives (Serial Attached SCSI, or SAS) and nearline drives (Serial ATA, or SATA) in the same system, with data migration technology;

An integrated Gigabit Ethernet switch that provides up to 48 host connections; and

An embedded IP co-processor that offloads iSCSI and NAS processing from host CPUs.

Nimbus bills the systems as “unified IP storage,” referring to the ability to support both SAN (iSCSI) and NAS (CIFS and NFS) in a single system.

The systems are the result of a number of partnerships. For example, Xyratex builds and integrates the enclosures, SMC Networks supplies the integrated switch, Seagate provides the SATA and SAS drives, LSI Logic provides the SAS chip technology, and Chelsio Communications supplies the integrated IP co-processor.

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(Separately, Nimbus has a joint development deal with AMCC for an external controller that will be available some time this summer.)

However, Nimbus developed the Halo software that ships with the iSCSI arrays, which includes functions such as snapshots, “snapclones” with rollback, asynchronous replication, and support for virtually all RAID levels, including double-parity RAID 6.

(For more information on RAID 6, see SATA spurs RAID-6 activity,” on p. 8 of this issue.)

The systems are available in two versions: The Breeze MX4 includes four Gigabit Ethernet connections, 20 host ports, and 2GB of cache, while the 10G supports a 10Gbps Ethernet connection, 48 host ports, and 4GB of cache. Capacity ranges from 1.5TB to 55TB via 7,200rpm SATA drives and/or 10,000rpm or 15,000rpm SAS drives. Pricing for the MX4 starts at about $20,000, while an entry-level 10G configuration with 3.5TB of capacity is priced from about $35,000, including all software and the integrated switch.

Nimbus CEO Tom Isakovich claims that the high-end 10G system can deliver 700MBps or 500,000 I/Os per second (IOPS) based on the Iometer benchmark and 512-byte I/Os.

Nimbus demonstrated its iSCSI systems, which are available only through resellers, at last month’s Storage Networking World (SNW) show in San Diego.

(At SNW, competitor Intransa, and a handful of other vendors, also demonstrated iSCSI systems and devices with support for 10Gbps Ethernet.)

Nimbus was founded in mid-2003 and has been shipping iSCSI systems since mid-2004.

This article was originally published on May 01, 2006