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Game Changing Data Reduction on the Nimble Secondary Flash Array


I was speaking about the new Secondary Flash Array (SFA) with one of our people in Asia-Pacific, and this is what he shared about the data reduction capability: “18:1 is a game changer for sizing and pricing.”

I thought back to when we were first seeing results out of our labs, which were in the area of 8x.  Even at this level of data reduction we were getting incredibly positive feedback. Our new Adaptive Flash (i.e. hybrid)-based SF-Series was doubling the data efficiency of what we were typically seeing on the All-Flash series. And with the SF-300 model having a planned 200TB capacity, we were excited to promote that we could deliver over a Petabyte and a half of effective capacity within just a 4U system. This was energizing the field.

Well, fast-forward to May when the SF-Series went GA, and with more testing under our belt along with a half-dozen new customers, a surprising thing happened.  We discovered our data was wrong.


The data reduction was even greater.

We’re now seeing expected data reduction in the area of 18-to-1!


Data Efficiency explored

So how does the Nimble dedupe work?  The data reduction on the SFA is based on always-on, in-line data deduplication and compression. The SFA dedupes per pool, and is based on 4k blocks.  The approach leverages the patented CASL (Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout) architecture -- the Nimble Storage operating environment, which encompasses both the NimbleOS and CASL, employs a flash-first design where all writes are acknowledged from an enhanced capacity NV DIMM layer before they are write-coalesced and written to spinning disk in large stripes. All writes occur on the SSD tier, are deduped and compressed, then are written to disk.

If this sounds familiar (esp. for Nimble customers), it should be. The SFA still uses NimbleOS, and the approach is similar to what we are doing on the All-Flash AF-Series arrays.  There are a couple key differences however, due to the engineering that was done specifically for the SFA:

  1. Reduced resource (RAM and compute) requirements to dedupe same capacity
  2. SFA tuned to minimize going into burst mode (switching off dedupe temporarily)

So theoretically, for very active data, the data efficiency ratios may converge between the SF and AF platforms. However, the Adaptive Flash economics and validated design work around the SFA has optimized that platform for less active data storage, and thus the typical reduction rates will differ significantly between the two platforms.


Estimating Data Reduction on the SFA

A key difference between our early testing and now is that we’ve had more time to simulate typical backup retention schedules. Though the basic appeal of the SFA is around ‘active backup’ or using your backup for more than just rare operational recovery, we are still seeing the majority of the data being inactive backup data. So the data reduction is primarily a factor of full backups over time. Here’s a way to estimate data savings:

  1. Take the number of full backups (synthetic or active) being retained. All full backups will dedupe well against each other; if there is no new data written between full backups, the new full backup will completely dedupe.  And this data reduction benefit extends to all the full backups retained over time, such as say a typical 12 week schedule.
  2. Multiply by the reduction on the data set. This could be comparable to the reduction you would see on a Nimble All-Flash array. This is workload dependent – some data sets like VDI dedupe much better than say video data. We can expect to see at the very least an average 1.5x compression savings on any data, and perhaps greater dedupe savings beyond that.

So a formula for a conservative data reduction estimate is as follows: 12 weekly backups will be expected to mostly dedupe, and multiplied by 1.5x, results in an expected 18:1 data reduction.


Change the Game with SFA

Put your backup data to work, and start realizing the increased data efficiency and cost savings of the Nimble Secondary Flash Array.  Change your data protection and secondary storage game today by getting up to 3.6PB of effective capacity in just a 4U footprint, and a List cost per effective GB as low as just 10 cents!

Get more information or request a demo at https://www.nimblestorage.com/technology-products/secondary-flash-arrays/.

Mike Harding | Products and Solutions Marketing
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
P: 408-514-3243
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