I first met the Nimble Storage team at Storage Field Day 6. Back then they impressed mightily with InfoSight: Nimble’s cloud based management platform for their storage arrays. It offered proactive failure detection by gathering statistics from all Nimble Storage arrays and using that intel to automatically resolve issues before they could become a hassle for the customer. It also allowed the Nimble engineering teams to blacklist upgrade paths, making sure that a known faulty software upgrade did not inadvertedly cause downtime on other storage arrays. Now, a year later, Nimble is celebrating its fifth birthday and I can’t help but notice: it’s come far since the start-up phase.
Some numbers: Nimble was launched 5 years ago and now has >6000 customers worldwide with, in total, several tens of thousands of storage arrays in the field. These customers are serviced by over a 1000 partners spread across 30+ countries. Nimble itself has roughly a 1000 employees.
Nimble Storage has continued along the path of an analytics approach to storage management. 94% of arrays report back to Nimble HQ, with 95% of service requests being opened automatically. 90% of those are closed automatically again, with the InfoSight system reporting a fix back to the customer.
Each of the arrays uses 1000’s of sensors to record operational data. It does this in a 1 second interval, resulting in small granularity measurements. This mountain of data is stored in a Vertica analytics platform.
All these statistics will be used reactively for for troubleshooting and tuning, but also for workload sizing and predictive capacity recommendations.
The arrays get major software releases every 6-12 months (currently being at level 2.3 which adds Adaptive Flash Service Levels), with maintenance releases every 4-8 weeks. Those maintenance releases reach 50% market penetration in roughly 2-3 months. Or to show the Nimble Storage customer’s trust in the upgrades in a different way: there’s still 61% of customers upgrading the arrays during business hours. I’m still not sure if this freaks me out of if it’s awesome…
Back at Storage Field Day 8, Nimble Storage demoed the InfoSight VMVision platform. It gathers statistics from the VMware hosts attached to the Nimble Storage arrays, and uses this data to show you the performance of the storage infrastructure across both platforms. Currently this functionality is limited to VMware and Nimble arrays only, but Hyper-V is on the roadmap.
The VMVision data is currently an opt-in feature. The data is not visible to channel partners (yet). I hope this will change, or at the very least the customer will get the ability to forward this information to a specific channel partner.
My thoughts on Nimble Storage at SFD8
I liked what I saw during the SFD8 presentation. Not just the technology and the demoes, but also Nimble Storage as a company. They’re confident in their own abilities and have a clear vision on what they want to achieve and how to do so. Nimble Storage indicated that they will be focusing on storage for the next 3-4 years, but are open to diversify into other branches of the IT infrastructure. Lets see how InfoSight VMVision develops over the next couple of months: maybe supporting 3rd party arrays would be a good first step to enter the monitoring and storage analytics market.
Watch the recordings over here. Dan also likes the InfoSight analytics, and Alex will even go as far as saying a storage array without analytics isn’t a competitive storage array. Let me know what you think!
Disclaimer: GestaltIT paid for the flight, hotel and various other expenses to make it possible for me to attend SFD8. I was however not compensated for my time and there is no requirement to blog or tweet about any of the presentations. Everything I post is of my own accord.