Nimboxx develops Atomic Unit hyper-converged storage platform

Nimboxx hyper-convergence software enables VM backup and instances of hybrid cloud while putting storage, network and compute in one box.

Nimboxx Inc. joined the hyper-converged storage market with the release of its MeshOS software and Atomic Unit hardware, which combines networking, compute and storage in one box.

The AU-110 hybrid array is a 1U 10-bay device that can be populated with SAS hard disk drives or solid-state drives. Each of the 10 slots can hold either a 1 TB disk drive or a flash module. Each single-node unit provides up to 10 TB of capacity with SAS drives or up to 8 TB with two flash modules.

Hyper-converged systems include storage, compute and network in one box, as opposed to converged systems, such as VCE Vblocks, which consist of separate pieces bundled together. The goal of hyper-converged systems is to make it easier to set up and manage storage for virtual machines (VMs).

Nimboxx will compete with Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform, SimpliVity OmniCube, Maxta Storage Platform, Scale Computing HC3 and VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN). Dell last week said it would sell Nutanix software on PowerEdge servers as part of an OEM deal seen as a validation of hyper-converged technology.

Nimboxx launched in June with $12 million in Series A funding from Hong Kong-based SMC Holdings. The startup's MeshOS software includes the ability to back up VMs to the cloud.

MeshOS takes point-in-time snapshots of VMs, compresses and deduplicates a running VM image in RAM, and ships the encrypted data to a public or private cloud. MeshOS does not provide inline data deduplication because "there was too much performance-robbing" during beta tests, said David Cauthron, Nimboxx's founder and chief technology officer.

Other storage features in the inaugural MeshOS include multi-tier caching and the ability to aggregate reads and writes in solid-state storage to accelerate underlying I/O streams.

Inline deduplication could be part of a product refresh planned for later this year. Plans for that refresh include storage clustering for striping metadata across multiple AU-110 devices.

Cauthron said the Atomic Unit platform is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with approximately 300 users that have yet to virtualize, as well as organizations exploring alternatives to VMware's hypervisor. Nimboxx software uses Linux-based KVM as its core hypervisor and writes its management software around it. With KVM built into the system, Nimboxx customers do not have to pay for VMware licenses. Of the other hyper-converged systems on the market, only Scale Computing uses KVM instead of VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V.

Nimboxx rates the AU device for 100,000 IOPS using a 4K random read/write workload. It used methodologies by Iometer to test performance across 30 VMs at a time, each supporting about 30 users.

Arun Taneja, president of consulting firm Taneja Group, said Nimboxx should be able to tap into organizations' desires to consolidate storage.

"Even if an enterprise has virtualized, at a macro level, that still could mean thousands and thousands of VM clusters and physical silos," Taneja said. "That's a massive administrative problem. Nimboxx seems to be offering a way for those kinds of enterprises to simplify their storage."

One-third of enterprises are using convergence technology and 44% are considering it, according to an April report by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) in Milford, Massachusetts.

Mark Bowker, an ESG senior analyst, predicted that Nimboxx eventually will phase out its boxes and sell only software. Maxta's Storage Platform is software-only, as is VMware's VSAN.

"The value Nimboxx brings is being able take scalar software architecture, write it across multiple nodes, and ultimately offer Web-scale capabilities. That differs entirely from the traditional server-storage-networking infrastructure," Bowker said.

The bigger opportunity for Nimboxx, Bowker said, is to go beyond SMBs and sell its hyper-convergence technology to Web-scale companies and cloud services providers.

Cauthron said Nimboxx is "finalizing details" with resellers, but declined to disclose if it had any OEM design wins in hand.

Next Steps

Hyper-converged systems look to alternative hypervisors

Guide to determining whether hyper-convergence is right for you

How hyper-convergence can increase capacity

Dig deeper on Data Storage Solutions for a Virtual Environment

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