HPE Nimble Storage SFA. Whats that about then? Part 1 – What is it?

Nimble SFA (Secondary Flash Array) Overview.

I have been running a Nimble SFA SF100 device in conjunction with Veeam Backup and Replication for a couple of months now and I thought I would give you some insight into what it is, what it does, initial setup and some of the space savings I am seeing using the device.

What is it?

The Nimble SFA is an inline deduplication device with a bit of a twist. Based on the excellent Nimble CS hybrid storage arrays, the code has been tweaked to allow inline deduplication of data landing on the device at the expense of slightly slower ingest rates. The unit I have, the SF100 is rated at about 500 MB/s ingest and can deliver 20000 IOPS. The bigger SF300 is rated at 40000 IOPS. Now I say the code has been tweaked, the SFA series of arrays are comprised of flash and spinning disk technology (despite the name). A lot of vendors that have a hybrid and all flash offering tend to reserve deduplication for their all flash only storage. Hybrid vSAN or hybrid Nimble arrays do not allow deduplication of data for example. So this is quite exciting, spinning disks, inline deduplication and decent IOPS delivery, whats the catch? Well there isn’t one. This device is aimed at the Secondary Storage market space. Think about Cohesity or the likes touting their storage platforms as a backup target or a location for none mission critical data. This is the segment where the SFA plays.

What does it do?

Now, you may have read deduplication and though about something like a Data Domain. This is NOT a Data Domain type device, no no no. It is much more than that. Yes the principals are the same, but I am yet to see any issues with re hydration of data from this device. This is when a deduplcation device has to reconstruct a file from all the common blocks of data shared between different files and present it as the file you have requested. This process can be time consuming on something like a Data Domain device, not so on the SFA. To quote Nimble’s data sheet found here

As well as offering deduplcation for your data sets, there is a mention about being able to quickly test and verify backups. When the SFA was launched, the integration guide for Veeam was released at the same time. This makes sense given Veeam and Nimbles close relationship and pre-existing storage integration with Veeam backup and replication software. There is a solution brief here which covers the benefits of integration with Veeam.

Is it for me?

If you are in the market for Secondary Storage, yes it is. If you already have an investment with Nimble storage for your primary workloads, then again, yes it is definitely worth looking at as it offers further integration. If you are looking for a high performance deduplcation device, take a look at this.

The main idea behind this device is about empowering the user to be able to put their backup data to work rather than just sat waiting in the wings until the brown stuff hits the fan. This means that backup data can be verified quickly or the backup data can be used to spin up a sand boxed virtual machine environment for regression testing and the likes.


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