Nimble's CS260 SAN Appliances Are Optimized for Virtualization, Data Backup

REVIEW: Nimble Storage is combining Tier 1 and Tier 2 enterprise storage capabilities into its new CS260 SAN, which combines performance, value and scalability into an easy-to-manage network appliance.

The founders of Nimble Storage chose the company's name to reflect their commitment to create flexible but scalable enterprise-class storage products. The company's latest effort, the CS260 storage area network (SAN) appliance, builds on that tradition. A 3U (5.25-inch) SAN, the CS260 offers up to 48TB of converged storage and data backup.

The CS260 is the latest in the series of Nimble Storage's product family, which includes the CS220, CS220G, CS240 and the CS240G. The primary differences between these appliances are raw storage capacity and connectivity speed. The CS220 offers as much as 12TB of raw storage capacity, while the CS240 offers 24TB of capacity. When Nimble adds a "G" to the model number, it changes the number of port count from six Gigabit Ethernet ports to a pair of 10GbE ports and a pair of 1GbE ports.

The CS260 comes in two configurations: CS260 and CS260G. The CS260 offers six, 1GbE network connections per controller. The CS260G offers two 10GbE and two 1GbE network connections per controller. Each configuration provides effective capacity of 48TB.

Each configuration offers high-availability and continuous data access through redundant, hot-swappable controllers, power supplies, fans and drives, as well as comprehensive resiliency capabilities.

However, it is what the units share in common that sets Nimble Storage's products apart from the competition. That commonality can be summed by two advanced technologies: the Nimble Protection Manager and CASL (Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout).

It is these two technologies that transform what would be a typical iSCSI SAN product into something that is much more than the sum of its parts.

In other words, CASL supercharges performance, while The Nimble Protection Manager creates a secure, protected storage paradigm that offers both Tier 1 and Tier 2 storage in a single appliance that incorporates integrated backup, snapshot capabilities and offsite replication. The CS260 incorporates 2.4TB of flash memory to power the CASL architecture, which helps the unit to deliver high performance.

I was able to put a few of Nimble Storage's CS appliances through some hands-on testing and was impressed by the results. My test environment consisted of several CS devices, along with the associated connectivity hardware and several enterprise-level servers. A multitude of operating systems (virtual and physical derivatives) were running in the testing environment on enterprise level server hardware. Connectivity provided included both 10GbE and 1GbE.

First and foremost, I was impressed with the quality of the physical appliances, which are based upon industry-standard hardware from a major server hardware vendor (the components for my test were built by Supermicro). The rack-mountable enclosures were made of quality components, featuring a relatively thick case that resists flexing and a tool-less design using heavy-duty latches and bays.

The units also incorporated fail-over capabilities, such as redundant power supplies, multiple cooling fans and hot swap drive bays. In other words, these units are built to last, and if they were to fail, repair should be quick and easy.