This is one of a series of posts discussing the presenters at Storage Field Day 10, occurring 25th-27th May 2016 in Silicon Valley, at which I am an attending delegate.  See links at the end of this post to other presenting vendors.  Details of the event can be found on the Storage Field Day 10 page at techfieldday.com and on the dedicated events page on this site at Storage Field Day 10.

When we look at the evolution of shared storage arrays, there was a move around the mid-2000’s to introduce tiering, initially in the form of multiple HDDs then later bringing in flash SSDs.  Given a choice and no cost constraints, we would place all of our data on the fastest media possible.  However that isn’t always possible, so compromises have to be made.  To use multiple levels of storage optimally, techniques like sub-LUN tiering were developed.  This to a certain degree ensured that faster and more expensive storage media was targeted at the data that needed it.

Sub-LUN tiering is however an example of reactive data placement, using historic activity patterns to move data around and onto the most appropriate media.  These solutions don’t have the ability to cope with unpredictable workload spikes and so don’t really use mixed media effectively.  Modern hybrid arrays (like those from Nimble) use flash and HDDs in more dynamic ways to ensure that the benefits of a little flash in an HDD-based system are most fully realised.

In Nimble’s case, flash acts as a read-only cache.  As write I/Os are processed in NVRAM and de-staged to disk, a copy is also put into flash, ensuring that should that data be re-read, it gets a fast response time.  The all-flash products operate slightly differently, as there’s no need to use flash as a cache; the primary copy of data simply sits on flash all the time.

Nimble introduced all-flash systems relatively late into the market.  This may have compromised their ability to maintain market share and certainly their shares have had a rough time over the last 12 months or so.  From a high of over $31 in June 2015, the shares slumped to around $20 in November 2015 and have reduced further to around $7 today.  Chris Mellor at The Register always has good coverage of Nimble’s financials.  You can find his latest post here.

The storage market is fragmenting; data isn’t just placed on shared storage arrays these days.  There are also many more players in the market, all vying for a piece of the action.  I’m looking forward to seeing where Nimble are headed next and how they intend to keep their head above water in this competitive market.

Related Links

Nimble has appeared as a presenter at a number of previous Tech Field Day events.

Comments are always welcome; please read our Comments Policy first.  If you have any related links of interest, please feel free to add them as a comment for consideration.  

Disclaimer:  I was personally invited to attend Storage Field Day 10, with the event teams covering my travel and accommodation costs.  However I was not compensated for my time.  I am not required to blog on any content; blog posts are not edited or reviewed by the presenters or the respective companies prior to publication.  

Copyright (c) 2009-2016 – Chris M Evans, first published on https://blog.architecting.it, do not reproduce without permission.

Written by Chris Evans

With 30+ years in IT, Chris has worked on everything from mainframe to open platforms, Windows and more. During that time, he has focused on storage, developed software and even co-founded a music company in the late 1990s. These days it's all about analysis, advice and consultancy.