SolidFire Review

Simple to scale up, scale down; we don't have to spend so many front end cycles on designing the architecture


What is most valuable?

Simplicity is definitely up there. It's not my number one. Number one is scalability. Simple to scale, scale up, scale down. When you look at something like a VMAX, there's a ton of pre-planning that has to happen to buy them. And then, if you didn't plan well, you're going to have a messed up implementation. With the SolidFires, I don't have to think about those things. We can just buy them, scale them as we need on demand, and we don't have to spend so many front end cycles on designing the architecture.

Also, green initiatives. Power, cooling, datacenter footprint. Ultimately, it's about cost, on that front. I think we can tie that one to some capex and opex. The front-end, I was just really talking about soft savings. We have a large company. We have an aging workforce and we can't just keep acquiring highly skilled employees as people retire.

How has it helped my organization?

It's the overall simplicity of the platform in that you can learn to operate one of these in half a day. You can stand them up in half a day. Whatever you need to purchase, it has a simple bill of materials. It's great.

Also, agility, absolutely. It takes a typical IT company months, and especially large companies like ours, months and months and months, to acquire gear. We spend a long time to plan, design, and then eventually get our quotes, review these bills of materials, make sure we get everything that we need correct, and it's just a complicated process. It takes time.

What needs improvement?

When you set up the nodes, we have to serial into each one of these nodes to configure the IP ranges. It's still very easy, but it's time consuming. If I have a 40-node cluster, it just irritates me. I really wish that they would use IPv6 Autoconfiguration to discover the other nodes and let me just do it by configuring one node.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I don't have a good answer. When we try to make these changes from VMAX, SolidFire, people say, "Well what's the risk-reward?" The risk is you either stay on a legacy architecture that's not going to be growing or developing. Like our VMAXs. Or you make a change. You go with the future. Go with something that you know is going to continue to develop and evolve. I think that's the key.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I do wish we could get a little more scalability on it. I feel confident we could scale one to the size of a fully blown out VMAX. But it'd be great if I could scale out to the size of two or three blown out VMAXs, like we would have in our enterprise datacenters.

How are customer service and technical support?

I called technical support once, early on. So I don't know how that's changed with NetApp acquisition.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We're replacing VMAX. All-purpose, general compute, block storage for the enterprise.

The biggest challenge is for block storage. What we're talking about here is, really, support. They're spinning magnetic drive disks. Sometimes we deal with some performance issues and if we didn't do a lot - if we did not have all the right information to get requirements from our customers so that we can architect the appropriate size solution - then it'd blow up on our face.

With a SolidFire I think that problem goes away. I just ask, "How much capacity do you need?" And I'm good.

How was the initial setup?

Cake. Easy. Too easy.

What was our ROI?

We expect that it'll take some time but we expect that it would reduce our operational cost, absolutely.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

EMC.

We considered hybrid storage but they were eliminated because they're a legacy architecture, for most of them; with bolt-ons. And the other ones were dual control or architectures; we are not about scale up anymore. We want scale out.

What other advice do I have?

When it comes to selecting a vendor, first, we don't deal with small vendors typically. We don't generally want to buy something that's VC-backed. We probably would not have considered SolidFire pre NetApp acquisition. But after it was acquired by NetApp, then we said, "Okay look, this company's not going go away overnight." So that's one criterion, that's a big one.

And the second is, am I going to get a commitment in the level of support that I get. When I buy this, are we going to be working together like we're partners, that we're in the same boat together?

We're an enterprise level company and I think SolidFire is uniquely valuable to a company our size. Because the price to get in there, that initial footprint, it's somewhat high. I think for the small business, I think Pure is killing it over there. I talked to them, I think Pure has got a great product, an all-flash product. But its dual controller and they're not going to play in a space where we're going to have hundreds and hundreds of connected hosts, and I need all those front-end ports. It's just not going to work. That's why, while Pure was interesting, they washed out for us pretty early. They would work great, I think, for our small robos, our small sites.

If a colleague at another company was researching a similar product I'd say make sure whatever you're looking at, you're not buying a legacy architecture with bolt-on flash drive. That's what we're trying to get away from, the pitfalls, because they're always tied to poor architecture decisions; things like cache-slot ratios to disk. We end up seeing that they have other problems. We definitely look at something that's designed ground up with flash in mind. And secondly, a company that's definitely going to be around.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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