Solidfire is a fast, solid, multi-purpose block array - great at what it is, but know what it isn't
Updated June 26, 2019

Solidfire is a fast, solid, multi-purpose block array - great at what it is, but know what it isn't

Philip Sellers | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Overall Satisfaction with SolidFire

SolidFire is the primary, tier 2 storage for the organization, used behind vSphere. The company is leveraging VVOLs and Storage Policy Based Management in vSphere on Solidfire to address complexity and management points within the array. It was used to replace aging EMC VNX arrays and consolidate from 6 down to a single array, reducing the management points and independent pools of storage into a single unified pool of all-flash storage. The efficiencies of the array were attractive in making the all-flash costs more affordable in a cost per GB comparison with other arrays. The shift to Solidfire also allowed for the shift from expensive fiber channel infrastructure towards iSCSI and faster Ethernet infrastructure, further eliminating management points.
  • All-flash performance is very good, particularly on read-intensive workloads
  • Performance scales linearly by adding new nodes
  • Guaranteed QOS policies offer both a minimum IOPS and maximum IOPS with burst capabability, so its not just capping the upper limit of a workload
  • Encryption at rest is integrated into the array platform
  • Grid architecture ensures that ability to perform rolling upgrades online without severely impairing performance
  • VVOL capabilities with the array allow granular control and visibility of the workloads
  • Block-only storage platform
  • Latency is higher than expected on write-intensive workloads (making it less effective for log applications and video)
  • UI and marketing inconsistencies make it hard to know how close you are to your maximum performance - all IOPS in UI are reported in actual IOPS whereas the ratings and marketing all use 4K IOPS - users must manually equate actual Average IO size and IOPS to the 4K representation
  • Solidfire's excellent support is being merged with NetApp's support and seems to be harder to navigate and receive the traditional high-quality support
  • ActiveIQ portal is good for longer term views of the array, but it is sub-par compared to competitors like HPE's Infosight
  • VVOL visibility in the UI is constrained - you can dig into details on a single volume but you are unable to compare performance of multiple volumes
  • Largely allowed us to install and not have to manage the array (set it and forget it) - the array calls home and reports into Active IQ and Solidfire auto-generates cases based on events and is proactive in handling issues.
  • Use of VVOL with the array has reduced the number of management points, but has introduced a new possibility of problems due to the VASA provider and vCenter dependency for VVOLs - it is something to be aware of if you choose to use VVOLs versus VMFS with vSphere. Use of VMFS and traditional LUNs bring less benefits, so there is a trade-off.
  • The first major software upgrade hit a bug specific to our vSphere configuration which causes a major outage. The advertised behavior is a non-disruptive upgrade process and maintenance process. Maintenance has been nondisruptive during a hardware failure (node replacement) and during a drive replacement.
  • Software updates to the array are guided by Solidfire and largely white-glove, handled by their support.
  • Solidfire is block-only, so NetApp FAS, HPE 3PAR, Tegile and Dell EMC Unity have the ability to also run file and block on the same array.
  • Performance scale in a single array of Solidfire is matched only with other software-defined architectures like EMC ScaleIO
  • Controller based architectures like E-Series, EF-Series, XIV and 3PAR usually are constrained by the controller's limits, Solidfire's software-defined, grid architecture breaks free of that
  • Software-defined like Solidfire often has a higher base level of latency than controller-based arrays
  • Solidfire's approach to manageability made it superior to the other arrays evaluated - because it was designed as all-flash and other architectures were designed for spinning disk and hybrid media pools, Solidfire eliminates a lot of the concepts of managing disk pools and tiers of storage and the simplicity is shown in the UI and in the management experience
  • Solidfire's hardware appliance model allowed a white-glove approach to SDS not matched by Dell EMC's ScaleIO
vSphere with Operations Management (VSOM), NAKIVO Backup & Replication, EMC VNX, Windows Server
Solidfire is a good, multi-purpose array for iSCSI environments. Grid architecture allows incremental, linear expansion of the array both in capacity and performance. The all-flash is a very high performance, low latency platform for a lot of applications. The way the company has architected the platform allows for continual upgrades and removes the lift-and-load replacements if you stay with Solidfire in the future.

The Solidfire fiber channel implementation is workable, but largely there is a checkbox. I cannot imagine any fiber channel shop is going to look at a Solidfire seriously, unless they are looking to move towards Ethernet based transport. Write intensive workloads struggle on the array. The double-helix data protection combined with the architecture can make writes more latent than expected - well into the teens and 20's of ms within the array.

Evaluating SolidFire and Competitors

Yes - Solidfire replaced 6 aging EMC VNX arrays in our organization. Each of the VNX it replaced were smaller pools of capacity acquired over the years and each presented a management problem because it was not federated storage between the arrays. All of the VNX were older spinning-disk arrays that were full both from capacity and performance standpoint and lacked the ability to scale. They were also out of warranty and EMC support was a big expense ongoing. The combined price of support was offset by a single array purchase for our organization.
  • Price
  • Product Features
  • Product Usability
  • Existing Relationship with the Vendor
When evaluating a storage array for purchase, there is no single factor - it is a mixture of 3 for our organization. Performance was a key indicator and the evaluation process includes a lot of synthetic workload tests against lab systems [we essentially wanted to put the marketing representations to the test on our own simulated workloads, close to our actual workloads]. Price was also a factor as we had a defined budget for the purchase. And third, Manageability and streamlining management was specifically a goal of this purchase. Although purchase price is an easy tangible amount, the ongoing management and maintenance has an associated price harder to quantify. Eliminating management points, unifying management and pools of discrete storage and reducing the overhead were key for this purchase.
From a performance evaluation, I would simulate more varied workloads to compare the arrays. Using a standard 80 Read/20 Write split did not highlight deficiency in write intensive workloads, so expanded benchmarking would be one change. In terms of other selection process, we might add a couple additional items to the scorecard that we have found to be important - such as specific UI elements to ensure we get accurate alerts and viewpoints within the workloads.

SolidFire Support

When we have had problems, the response on the Solidfire side has been strong, but not perfect. As they scale and integrate into NetApp, support from regions outside of the USA are having a more difficult time diagnosing and addressing issues for complex problems. The Boulder, CO, and Raleigh, NC, support teams are both extremely strong and provide top-notch support. ActiveIQ is a great support tool both for NetApp/Solidfire and for the customer. The proactive support tickets opened have been helpful. The node-based support has been excellent - meaning when we had a DIMM fail, they sent a replacement node - no time consuming troubleshooting of internal components to fix the issue. Upgrades are handled by SF technicians, so it feels white-glove.
Quick Resolution
Good followup
Knowledgeable team
Problems get solved
Kept well informed
No escalation required
Immediate help available
Support understands my problem
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
No - Solidfire has traditionally had a single level of support that more resembles a premium support package.
One of the Solidfire nodes failed with a DIMM error. Support contacted us about the issue and knew about it before we were aware. The array and performance was not impacted, our workloads were still running perfectly so we had no indication of problem. After a reboot over the out of band management, the technician dispatched a node. The node arrived at our datacenter, and a technician assisted in replacing the node - just add the management IP's and a couple steps it was back in the cluster and rebuilding.