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DDN storage unifies IntelliFlash, Nexenta, Tintri pickups

DDN launches IntelliFlash H-Series and Tintri VMstore T7000 hybrid arrays. The new NVMe-based systems incorporate technology from recent DDN storage acquisitions.

DDN storage made its mark in high-performance computing. The vendor is starting to woo enterprise customers with new storage based on recently acquired products.

DDN, which shortened its corporate name this year from DataDirect Networks, previewed two AI-focused arrays combining its Nexenta file system, Tintri virtual-machine (VM) storage and IntelliFlash storage management. Both storage systems use a 2U, 24-drive DDN ExaScaler A3I chassis. ExaScaler arrays use NVMe flash to ingest deep learning workflows at scale.

In 2019 deals, DDN acquired software-defined storage vendor Nexenta and picked up the IntelliFlash all-flash systems from Western Digital Corp. The DDN IntelliFlash H-Series petabyte-scale arrays package Nexenta NexentaStor software-defined storage and Tintri Analytics integrated with the IntelliFlash system. DDN said H-Series will be generally available by the end of the year.

Tintri VMstore T7000 marks DDN's most significant integration since scooping up hybrid flash startup Tintri in a bankruptcy deal in 2018. Tintri arrays manage virtual machines (VMs) as discrete units. Conventional file abstractions are replaced by intelligent VM-aware storage. DDN optimized the Tintri file system as an ExaScaler configuration. The VMstore T7000 is scheduled for controlled release in 2021.

The A3I is variant of DDN ExaScaler NAS arrays engineered for high parallelization. ExaScaler runs DDN Lustre file system, which it acquired from Intel in 2018. DDN teamed with chipmaker Nvidia to develop A3I reference architecture for supercomputing clusters.

DDN could have let these different technologies continue on their own trajectories, but they combined them to create something new that provides value to customers now.
Scott SinclairEnterprise Strategy Group

Scott Sinclair, a storage analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said DDN repackaged its acquired technologies to provide a unified storage platform.

"We're seeing a rise in interest for NFS-based workloads, especially high performance, and we're seeing a desire for infrastructure consolidation. DDN could have let these different technologies continue on their own trajectories, but they combined them to create something new that provides value to customers now, which is more consolidation, more unification of services, and the ability to deliver higher performance," Sinclair said.

James Coomer, a DDN senior VP of products, said the new arrays expand DDN's addressable use cases. He said the systems extend real-time analytics to DDN's traditional high-end systems and provide dense data platforms in the midrange to enterprises that build internal AI clouds.

"We have had NVMe across the [DDN] platform range, but this is the first time we've brought it over to Tintri and IntelliFlash," Coomer said.

IntelliFlash H-Series array
IntelliFlash H-Series array

IntelliFlash: disk storage with NVMe performance

SanDisk Corp. originally developed IntelliFlash iSCSI-based block storage. The all-flash product was absorbed by Western Digital Corp. during its acquisition of SanDisk in 2015. Product development languished at Western Digital, despite several IntelliFlash OEM partners that sold IntelliFlash-based storage systems, including IBM, Nexenta and Tegile Systems (another Western Digital pickup).

Until recently, DDN storage systems focused on research labs and similar large organizations that required petabytes of storage. The company used the Nexenta and Tintri acquisitions to expand its presence in commercial data centers.

"What they're doing now is to participate in the traditional enterprise data center environment, with some really smart solid-state storage technology," Sinclair said.

DDN paired the IntelliFlash H-Series operating software with its Linux-based NVMe controller. IntelliFlash overlays a tier of NVMe atop high-capacity disk to manage metadata, reads and writes. Tintri Analytics allow quality of service to vary according to the need of individual VMs. Adding NexentaStor expands IntelliFlash block-based arrays with NFS and SMB file shares for virtualized and traditional data workloads. The 2U IntelliFlash H base chassis supports 24 HDDs. Capacity scales to roughly 7 PB with four 90-bay expansion shelves.

DDN plans controlled release of Tintri VMstore next year.
DDN plans controlled release of Tintri VMstore next year.

Shared storage for enterprise AI

Tintri's strength is its software intelligence. The company, founded by former VMware executive Kieran Harty, developed VMstore arrays on white-box servers for virtualized environments. Despite a solid customer base, Tintri struggled financially and eventually launched an ill-fated IPO to stoke investor interest. The company was in bankruptcy proceedings when privately held DDN swooped in to snatch Tintri's assets.

For the VMstore T7000, DDN replaced Tintri's white-box server hardware with a high-performance DDN A3I platform optimized for the Tintri file system. Customers can populate the VMstore T7000 chassis with as few as 10 drives and add individual drives non-disruptively. DDN claims the enhanced VMstore boosts write performance by about 30%.

The Tintri array supports self-encrypting drives and Federal Information Processing Standards-compliant software encryption based on Key Management Interoperability Protocol. Coomer said VMstore system intelligence will be ported to other DDN platforms for autonomous storage management. Integrating NexentaStor with Tintri should simplify management of shared storage for multiple VMs, which customers said was a missing ingredient.

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