Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Tuesday, June 25, 2024

DDN, Tintri Unveil New NVMe Storage Devices 

DDN, a long-time leader in HPC storage, announced two new products today and provided more detail around its strategy for integrating DDN HPC technologies with the enterprise strengths of its recent acquisitions, notably Tintri, Nexenta, and IntelliFlash (from Western Digital). Following its buying binge, DDN has been aggressively promoting the DDN ‘At Scale’ brand as its HPC product line, distinct from its Tintri ‘Intelligent Infrastructure’ line as its enterprise brand.

The two announced products, Tintri’s IntelliFlash H-Series and VMstore T7000, are upgrades to existing product lines and will use advanced NVMe controller technology from DDN’s AIX series which powers some of today’s most advanced supercomputers, including Nvidia’s Selene which debuted at number 7 on the most recent Top500 list.

The IntelliFlash H-Series is a hybrid product that combines NVMe flash memory with HDDs for scalable capacity (up to 5 petabytes) while VMstore T7000 is an all NVMe flash system targeting virtualized workloads.

“We’re introducing this platform as part of a kind of ‘sandwich approach’ to integrating our businesses and getting the most out of them,” James Coomer, DDN SVP of products, told HPCwire. “The bottom piece of bread is the hardware. The middle of the sandwich is these various software products, Tintri VMstore, IntelliFlash and EXAScaler on the DDN side. We’ve been taking IP and moving it around for the benefit of the other software products. The top of the sandwich is the cloud analytics, which we’ve taken from Tintri and have been bringing across to all the other products over this past year. That’ll come to fruition next year.”

Pointing to IntelliFlash H-Series and VMstore T7000, Tintri CTO Tomer Hagay said, “Even though they have different bezels (front panel) and look different, we’re using the same platform underneath. That’s the whole point. We’re leveraging development done by DDN At Scale side – all the firmware, the BIOS, and optimizations – for use on the enterprise side. We focus where we’ve always focused, which is on deep integration with ecosystems, with applications, with virtual machines, with containers, automatic quality of service, and data services of a very high granularity.”

Here’s the product descriptions from DDN-Tintri (lightly edited):

  • IntelliFlash H-Series – Scalable NVMe-accelerated Hybrid Flash Systems
    The IntelliFlash H-Series hybrid flash systems combine the performance of NVMe with the economics of HDDs for a full-service intelligent storage infrastructure that’s easy to manage. H-Series systems enable multi-petabyte, multiprotocol environments that support virtualized and non-virtualized SAN and NAS workloads. These systems deliver a combination of performance and scalability for enterprise end-user file shares and AI, analytics and HPC workloads. The H-Series enables concurrent support for SAN and NAS protocols on a single system, while incorporating powerful analytics software for faster data insights. These enterprise-grade systems also enable large scale file services without the performance degradation experienced when using other NAS systems.
  • VMstore T7000 – First NVMe-Based VMStore System leveraging DDN technology
    The T7000 is the latest addition to VMstore [and] that delivers outstanding operational efficiencies with AI-driven autonomous operations and advanced analytics. The T7000 is the first NVMe-based VMstore system, leveraging DDN’s proven NVMe technology to provide 30% faster performance than current generation VMstore systems, and designed for today’s most demanding environments. The higher density NVMe system also supports more VMs in the same footprint for better cost-efficiency.”

DDN is hoping technology synergy will fuel its drive into the enterprise market. Privately held, DDN has been in business for 20 years and “profitable for the majority of those,” said Coomer. Headcount is currently about 1000. The company has 30 offices worldwide, 150 patents, and has sold around 20 exabytes of systems according to Coomer. The long-term challenge for some time has been growth. The traditional high-end HPC market, where DDN is a dominant player, tends to face boom-bust cycles and its absolute size – dollars and number of customers – is dwarfed by the much larger enterprise market.

Recently DDN has been expanding its portfolio through acquisition. It picked up Intel’s Lustre division (parallel file system) two and a half years ago. Lustre, of course, is very popular in HPC, particularly at the high end, although it has not gained much traction in the enterprise. DDN bundles Lustre in its EXAscaler product line.

The push into enterprise began with acquisition of Tintri (for $60 million) in 2018. Tintri had struggled after an IPO but had solid technology (VMstore). In the last year or so DDN acquired IntelliFlash (flash memory) and Nexenta (strength in SAN). The task now is to integrate these pieces together and build a enterprise storage technology business, while not damaging DDN’s successful HPC business. DDN recently ranked number 1 in an Intersect360 Research study of user satisfaction with vendors.

“When DDN acquired Tintri, it signaled that it foresaw the growing importance of high-performance data management and analytics for enterprise computing. DDN’s new products integrate these technologies to address these trends,” said Intersect360 CEO Addison Snell.

Today’s announcements represent early progress points in the integration and leveraging of DDN’s HPC strength into its enterprise lineup. Hagay said VMstore T7000 will be 30 percent faster and is more flexible. The IntelliFlash H-Series also has scalability and enhanced NAS capabilities that were largely taken from Nexenta. Pricing for the new products wasn’t disclosed. The IntelliFlash H-Series (two versions, H6100 and H6200) will be available Q4 2020, so presumably soon, while VMstore T7000 won’t be available until Q1 2021.

Coomer said, “The IntelliFlash H-Series is 2U system that can scale to multi-petabytes. It’s hybrid, because we’ve got NVMe in the controller. But then we have up to four of these 90-bay enclosures attached to it. As a 4U 90-bay, top-loading system, 3.5-inch SAS, [and] we can have up to four of those attached to the NVMe controller at launch, with more coming later,” said Coomer.

“So that means around five or six petabytes of HDD storage fronted and by IntelliFlash managed NVMe and IntelliFlash managers have very comprehensive read and write caching and metadata caching and perform inline dedupe and compression through that flash layer at the top. We don’t need this [capability] for databases with many of the traditional IntelliFlash workloads. But for new workloads using NAS, those tend to be more unstructured data or at least larger volumes of data where we need this,” he said.


At least near-term, navigating the new expanded DDN franchise can be a little confusing. Separate web sites showcase the DDN At Scale’s portfolio and Tintri’s lineup, although Coomer noted, for example, that both organizations will sell the IntelliFlash H Series.

“DDN is both the mother company and also the name of the At Scale company and its sister company is Tintri, the enterprise division. So really, there’s two halves, one is at scale, one is enterprise. Obviously [we’re] increasing the cross pollination between them,” said Coomer.

The high-end HPC and traditional enterprise markets have been quite different but that’s changing as demand for AI and AI-infused HPC capabilities grow in the broader enterprise market. Coomer noted that storage capacity and throughput are often used as rough benchmarks that separate the two markets. Coomer said “20 gigs/sec or 30 gigs /sec and a few petabytes” roughly describes a blurry line between the two segments.

“The other thing is ecosystem integration into enterprise. They expect to have various links into VMware, Hyper V, and lots of plugins into the things they use in the backup environment. [Those] don’t really have the same level of up take in At Scale where it’s mostly about performance and capacity.”

IntelliFlash, he noted, “Ticks all the enterprise boxes when it comes to dedupe, compression, thin provisioning, cloning, all this kind of stuff. At Scale, our EXAscalar ticks all the boxes when it comes to absolute performance, absolute cost effective scaling capacity. Plus, we have some significant enterprise features, but not quite the same sort of flavors of an IntelliFlash. So we’re just introducing snapshots. We don’t do dedupe and compression, but we do provide really strong data management.”

Link to release: