This post is part of the blog series related to Storage Field Day 13 and the Pure Storage Accelerate conferences. Find out the entire SFD13 content, presentations, articles, presenting companies and delegates here.
I first met the fine folks at Exablox at Storage Field Day 10 in May 2016, however I was not able to blog about them in a proper fashion at the time (one of the victims of the recurrent jetlag when I travel to the US). Since then, Exablox has seen a change or two. Let’s go through a quick preview of Exablox until we get to meet them at Storage Field Day 13 for an in-depth article.
According to Crunchbase, Exablox was founded in 2010 and had seen a total of 52.47 Million USD investments in a total of 4 rounds from 5 investors, with the latest round being in May 2015. The company is located in Sunnyvale, CA, at the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Exablox had entered a business relationship in October 2016 with software backup vendor StorageCraft, by proposing a bundled offering including their hardware appliance – the OneBlox, an advanced backup target (see sections below) – with the StorageCraft ShadowProtect backup software solution.
Then in January 2017 StorageCraft and Exablox announced that StorageCraft was purchasing Exablox for an undisclosed amount. That came to me as a surprise as I haven’t heard before about StorageCraft at all. In fact, I was introduced to a StorageCraft SE by a friend at VMworld 2016 only, and my thought at the time was that the solution seemed to target SMB markets.
While StorageCraft was unknown to me, it’s predominantly SMB-oriented software product seems to be an excellent complementary to the Exablox’s OneBlox hardware appliances which are target filers also oriented for the SMB market.
The SMB market is a fiercely competitive one in the field of backup solutions, with massive leaders such as Veeam, which despite its enterprise orientation still remains the major heavyweight IMHO in the SMB world, and a myriad of other actors, such as Vembu, StoreCraft and so on.
Exablox define themselves as a provider of enterprise-grade scale-out storage solution targeted at small and medium businesses, and seek to differentiate from regular cheap backup targets used in SMB environments (dummy NAS or Direct Attach Storage) with a strong set of advanced features.
Due to its ability to leverage SSD drives (albeit limited by the bottlenecks of the SAS and SATA protocols), Exablox can also be used in lighter environments as a file-based flash storage for VMware or Hyper-V environments.
Exablox – Architecture
ExaBlox’s OneBlox appliances are a great fit as backup targets: their scale-out architecture is supplemented with data protection, in-line deduplication and compression. While the data remains on-premises, the management of the appliances is made through Exablox OneSystem, a cloud-based management solution. I will have to ask if the solution is cloud-only or if an on-premises deployment is also a possibility.
In terms of hardware, two appliances are currently offered, the OneBlox 4312 and the OneBlox 5210. The 4312 offers 12x 3.5″ slots with a maximum RAW capacity of 96 TB when fully populated with 8 TB drives, while the 5210 offers 10x 2.5″ slots for a maximum RAW capacity of 80 TB using 8 TB drives. Both appliances support SAS and SATA HDD as well as SSD drives. Appliances appear to be sold without disks as Exablox supports a “bring your own drives” model where customers are encouraged to purchase their drives themselves. Following this logic, mix-and-match of drive types and capacities also seems to be supported from the documentation I was able to read. Those are additional questions that I’ll ask if not explained upfront by Exablox.
The supported protocols are NFS and SMB, and connectivity is done either through 1 GbE or 10 GbE ports, the number of which varies per application, 10 GbE BASE-T or SFP+ ports are supported, although I recommend to check with the vendor to get the exact configurations offered.
The drives and nodes are added to a single global storage pool that also exists as a single global namespace. Adding new drives or new nodes automatically expands that global storage pool. The features available are as follows:
- In-line deduplication performed globally, allowing up to 10x space savings
- Advanced CDP (Continuous data protection) with every writes captured and ability to revert to snapshots (file versioning) – need to understand the frequency and level of granularity (potentially also impact on performance)
- Scale-out clustering in a ring topology – need my mind refreshed, I remember that Sean Derrington spent a good deal of time talking about it and I wasn’t looking fresh on that video
- In terms of fault tolerance, in May 2016 Exablox would support the loss of 2 drives per appliance, as well as the loss of 2 nodes per global namespace.
- Compression can be also enabled or disabled. It’s recommended to fine-tune compression and deduplication based on the backup software being used. Some performance issues were reported with Veeam earlier in 2015 but the configuration & drive types must not have been the fastest.
- Cross-Site replication – it’s possible to replicate data across WAN between two different sites. Data is encrypted and only deduped changes are carried across the WAN link.
- Cloud-based management platform – I have reserves here about whether it’s a plus or a minus. That would definitely not look good for larger users but since they target SMBs that’s generally less of a concern.
This primer reminded me how cool the Exablox solution is and I still can’t understand why I didn’t write about them in 2016. Mea Culpa! I am looking forward to understand how their solution has evolved, what are the integration points with StorageCraft software (although it’s possible to bundle, Exablox nodes can still be purchased standalone) and in general see whatever announcements they may have.
With the ability to scale up to 280 TB, that’s a really nice solution for customers with large capacity storage requirements, and a solid set of enterprise-level features for a company and product which aims primarily at SMB markets. There is indeed much more to be said than this primer’s light content, but I’ll wait for my return from SFD13 to hopefully provide and updated technical deep-dive.
Looking forward to meet again the fine folks at Exablox and secretly hoping they still have the best espresso machine in the entire Silicon Valley!
This disclosure is written specifically for the Storage Field Day 13 and Pure Storage Accelerate events. I was invited to the Pure Storage Accelerate and Storage Field Day 13 events by Gestalt IT & Pure Storage. Gestalt IT & Pure Storage covered travel expenses to the event, accommodation and food were also covered for the entire event duration. Transportation from home to PRG airport and back, transportation from SFO airport to the hotel as well as food and accommodation costs (on 10-Jun-17) were covered by me.
I did not receive any compensation for the participation in this event, for which I took unpaid time off to be able to attend (as it is the case with any events I participate to). I am not obliged to blog or produce any kind of content. Any tweets, blog articles or any other form of content I have produced or may produce in the future related to this event is the exclusive product of my interest in technology and my will to share information with my peers. Readers might also want to know that at the time of writing I owned two (2) shares of Pure Storage (PSTG.K).
In line with the concept of freedom of thought/critical thinking I commit to share only my own point of view and analysis about any products, technologies, strategies & concepts I was introduced to.