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Recently Nebulon and Supermicro hosted a joint webinar where Nebulon CEO, Siamak Nazari, and Eric Sindelar, GM of Operations & Advanced Technology Development at Supermicro discussed why Cloud-Defined Storage paired with Supermicro Ultra Servers is an optimal enterprise solution. During the discussion, we received some great questions and this blog post will highlight a few of my favorites.

  1. What is Supermicro with Cloud-Defined Storage?
    Supermicro with Cloud-Defined Storage is a cloud-managed SaaS, which enables on-prem, server-based enterprise storage and automates storage operations in your Supermicro Ultra servers. Unlike Hyper-Converged Infrastructure, Cloud-Defined storage doesn’t tax your server CPU, network or memory resources and takes advantage of the full power of the Supermicro Ultra server. This solution eliminates the need to purchase expensive external arrays for your data center.
  2. What are some typical use cases for Cloud-Defined Storage with Supermicro?
    We have designed the system not to be limited to a specific class of application, but we’ve found that most customers find Cloud-Defined Storage to be an ideal solution for their Kubernetes, VMware and MongoDB deployments.We’ve also found Cloud-Defined Storage to be an ideal solution for customers who are struggling with their Edge deployment. By virtue of managing everything through the cloud you have a very simple and centralized way to manage and secure the edge.
  3. How does the Cloud-Defined Storage PCIe card, the SPU, differ from a DPU or SmartNIC?
    A DPU is typically an ARM-based processor(s) made available on a PCIe device to run a specialized software stack. Most DPUs today are embedded on SmartNICs and specifically focused on networking, and those built for storage only offload certain services onto the card itself often still tax server resources at some level.Nebulon runs all storage services on the Services Processing Unit (SPU) which provides a data plane across your Supermicro application servers. This means no storage services are run on the server CPU. At Nebulon, we designed the SPU to look like a standard SAS LUN so you don’t need to configure your server any differently than you would if you had a server with a Broadcom HBA in it, for example. So, no modification is needed to the standard server environment.The biggest difference between the Cloud-Defined Storage solution and a standard SmartNIC is the management layer. Most SmartNIC vendors do not have an at-scale management solution and effectively create management silos because the management is server or rack-level vs worldwide. With Cloud-Defined Storage and nebulon ON, the control plane is in the cloud.
  4. You mentioned Cloud-Defined Storage can be brought as a standard option through Supermicro.
    Yes! Standard support is also provided through Supermicro.
  5. How are standard storage features (high availability, snapshots, compression, encryption, etc.) and performance offered in the cloud remotely?
    The control plane operates in the cloud while customer application data remains on-prem and in control of the customer within their data center or colocation facility. Storage services are provided via the Nebulon SPU and the local SSDs in the application server. All storage data services are implemented within the SPU itself.The Nebulon SPU is a full-height, full width PCIe card with its own separate processor and security mechanisms built-in. As an example, if you have a 5-node application cluster, each server will have an SPU which offers scale-out storage performance. Each SPU communicates via redundant 10/25GbE network interfaces with other SPUs in the same cluster for shared storage. Communication to the cloud control plane, nebulon ON is achieved via a dedicated 1GbE network interface.
  6. What happens to control if cloud connectivity is interrupted?
    When cloud connectivity is interrupted, storage services to applications operate as normal with no service disruption or degradation. nebulon ON provides app server storage configuration via Configuration Templates and offers cloud-based monitoring. Monitoring and new environment builds would be temporarily unavailable, but all other storage and data services will continue to work unabated.
  7. Can the Nebulon SPU fit in any PCIe slot?
    It fits in a slot that accepts a double-wide, full height, full length PCIe card neatly inside a Supermicro Ultra server.
  8. Why is the control plane in the cloud and not on-premises? How is it secure?
    Separating the control plane from the data plane and moving it to the cloud was a day 1 design decision. With traditional storage, management is usually done at a system or rack-level. By placing the control plane in the cloud, we can offer a true at-scale management solution with universal insights globally. Administration is completed through a single API endpoint, which offers fleet management, predictive maintenance, and simplified troubleshooting. Plus, you can easily take advantage of new features and enhancements as they are available instantly through cloud-delivered updates “as-a-service”.Cloud-Defined Storage brings a state of the art, built from the ground up approach for ensuring data and communication security. Each Nebulon SPU card has an embedded security chip for authentication and storing encryption keys and certificated. Every single piece of data on the SPU is encrypted. Whether you’re writing data to a drive, you’re exchanging data between the SPUs, and even if the telemetry data is leaving the SPU to the nebulon ON cloud control plane it is all encrypted.With Cloud-Defined Storage any time changes are required – for example, nPod, Snapshot, Configuration Template or even User creation – multi-factor authentication occurs. The system insists on having network access to the SPU, this design consideration prevents man in the middle attacks and compromised credentials from resulting in something potentially catastrophic. If for example a bad actor does happen to compromise user credentials and authenticates to nebulon ON changes to the environment are NOT possible because they are outside of your datacenter network.
  9. When you spoke about managing updates, are you referring to the updates of the SPU software or the Nebulon ON cloud control plane?
    The separation of the cloud-based control plane and the on-prem data plane was a day 1 design decision. nebulon ON is delivered as a SaaS type offering. This is a benefit of separating the control and data planes. nebulon ON is managed as a subscription based service where new features are rolled out in the cloud automatically. Unlike traditional storage models, where updates to the control plane require customers to also update the data layer or the firmware (FW) across all of your controllers simultaneously. Traditionally, 70-75% of the updates are on the control plane. With Nebulon’s cloud-based control plane features are updated automatically without having to worry about also updating the data plane.With Cloud-Defined Storage, customers receive non-disruptive ‘micro’ updates to the on-prem data plane and can update (nebOS or SSD firmware for example) their entire fleet with a push of a button.
  10. Can we try this? Is there a cloud sandbox or download of software?
    Yes! You can request a virtual demo, here.Without having to do anything in your data center you can get a hands-on experience with our cloud-based approach. We can setup a virtual proof-of-concept by having you log onto the nebulon ON cloud control plane which is connected to Nebulon SPUs in Supermicro Ultra servers in our data center, for you to test drive the technology.

Eager to learn more? Don’t forget to watch the Supermicro with Cloud-Defined Storage webinar. For more information on Supermicro with Cloud-Defined Storage, click here. Also, if you’re ready for a virtual, cloud-based test drive be sure to request a demo.

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Clint Wyckoff

Principle Technical Marketing Engineer

Clint Wyckoff is an avid technologist, cloud enthusiast and IT Pro Community contributor with over 15 years of real-world enterprise data center architecture experience. Clint is an energetic and engaging speaker and places a large emphasis on solving the real-world challenges IT professionals face.