In previous posts and survey summaries, we described the storage and backup challenges that we at Nimble set out to address. As the solution design took shape (which gradually acquired the name “converged storage and backup”), we took care to ensure it had five key characteristics:

  1. Naturally it has to meet the high performance and availability requirements of enterprise applications and databases, such as very good IOPS, latency and uptime. However IT organizations want the most cost effective performance to meet their business goals. As an example, although we use flash to boost performance, we   integrate it very intelligently like a hybrid car, rather than for its raw power like a roadster.
  2. To address chronic backup pain points, we built in instant backups/restores, sufficient retention to meet business needs, and simple application-integrated backup management (typical tasks like scheduling, retention policies, verification, restores, monitoring and alerts). Snapshots are natural building blocks for this, but we took care to overcome the cost and limitations of most traditional approaches such as performance impact, tendency to chew up lots of expensive primary capacity, big reserves, limited snapshot counts, poor manageability, etc.
  3. There are few acquisition decisions where cost is not a consideration (except maybe the ones found here), Continual capacity growth no doubt fuels special sensitivity to the cost of storage. Low storage capacity cost is particularly important for converged storage. It is hard to deliver instant backups/restores and sufficient retention to meet business needs, unless the application data is on low cost primary storage to begin with. Otherwise you would either need the typical, cumbersome data copies to another storage tier, or compromise the weeks of retention that could be maintained cost effectively.
  4. WAN efficient replication, with fast offsite recovery. In addition to high availability and fast restore capabilities, converged storage also has to protect against less likely but catastrophic scenarios such as power failure, site disaster or the equipment catching fire. This means frequent offsite replication, and the ability to rapidly failover to the offsite storage. This in turn means the replication has to be highly WAN efficient, so as not to overwhelm the modest WAN links of the typical organization.
  5. Dead simple management. Every task from setup, to provisioning, backup and replication management and monitoring has to be simple, involve the fewest steps possible, and designed so it could be performed by an IT generalist without deep storage expertise. Capacity optimization techniques have to be fast and so simple as to be nearly invisible. And tasks that typically tend to complex or repetitive have to be simplified by pre-built templates and policies.

Upcoming posts will expand on how we developed the underlying technology solutions to meet and balance these goals.