Nebulon expands from storage focus to overall HCI infrastructure

Nebulon, which launched its hardware-assisted cloud-defined storage in June last year, has broadened its scope to become a smart infrastructure SaaS supplier providing a better hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) offering.

The startup’s first product was a Storage Processing Unit (SPU), an add-in, FH-FL PCIe card, with an 8-core, 3GHz ARM CPU plus encryption/dedupe offload engine. This is fitted inside servers and managed through a data management service delivered from Nebulon’s cloud. Server-attached storage drive capacity is aggregated across servers delivering a hyper-converged (HCI) system experience. The company has expanded this remotely-managed storage remits to become a – wait for it – server-embedded, infrastructure software delivered as-a-service.

Nebulon is calling this ‘smartInfrastructure’. CEO Siamak Nazari explained in a statement: “Customers want the cloud experience for their on-premises infrastructure across their core, hosted and edge deployments.”

The company is introducing two reference architecture products, branded smartEdge and smartCore, using Supermicro Ultra servers. The products deliver self-service infrastructure provisioning, infrastructure management-as-a-service, and enterprise shared and local data services. These include dedupe, compression, erasure coding, encryption, snapshots, clones and mirroring in a scale-out storage architecture. smartInfrastructure supports any application: containerised, virtualised and bare-metal, and is available anywhere, from core to edge to hosted data centres.

Nebulon said IT administrators and application owners benefit from simple deployment, zero-touch remote management, easy at-scale automation, AI-based insights and actions, and behind-the-scenes software updates. Zero server resources are used in delivering Nebulon’s enterprise data services, eliminating HCI limitations on server density and keeping 100 per cent of the server CPU, DRAM and network usable for applications. 

DPU angle

In essence, Nebulon’s SPU is a type of data processing unit (DPU) or SmartNIC, like the Fungible product and Nvidia’s BlueField SmartNIC,  which offloads low-level storage, network and security tasks from the host CPU. 

Nebulon – like Fungible and Nvidia – has a composability angle, stating on its website that you can “dynamically compose your infrastructure for your application when combining servers and storage media in a cluster.” 

smartInfrastructure details

Nebulon’s smartInfrastructure comprises its ON AI-assisted, cloud control plane which powers the SPU, described as an IoT endpoint-based data plane. This is embedded in a vendors’ application server and used to provide the data services. Nebulon claims the ON service and SPU products can replace an enterprise SAN – so storage is still a prime feature of Nebulon’s offering.

Nebulon SPU

Nebulon provides a catalog of services for different applications. These services will cover the provisioning of O/S and software packages, data volumes and data services for selected compute nodes. A customer’s IT organisation can contribute their own services to the catalogue. Users can then provision on-premises IT infrastructure that includes compute services (servers), the operating system on these compute nodes and its configuration, data storage for the clustered application installed on the servers, and associated data services.

The smartInfrastructure is delivered to customers as a service in the cloud and does not require customer maintenance. Updates to the on-premises infrastructure software components, including data plane, or server drive firmware can be rolled out enterprise-wide by a click of a button.

Nebulon smartCore and Nebulon smartEdge are reference architectures under the smartInfrastructure solution that are focused on specific deployment scenarios in enterprise data centres or as a hosted solution (smartCore), and at the enterprise edge (smartEdge). 

Nebulon infrastructure software is a subscription-based offering. It told us the SPUs/IoT endpoints come as a standard option from the customer’s default server vendor.

Takeway

The takeaway message here is that Nebulon smartInfrastructure is server-embedded, infrastructure software and an alternative to hyperconverged infrastructure software. The Nebulon Supermicro reference architecture offerings are available now.

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