1&1, a subsidiary of United Internet, manages over 19 million domain names worldwide as well as running over 70,000 servers for its cloud hosting business. The company has created a new generation of cloud services that it hopes will help them jump headfirst into the public cloud business.
A company of the size of 1&1 doesn't make its technology decisions lightly, so it was interesting to hear that 1&1 chose flash storage for its new infrastructure. More interesting, perhaps, in this market with multiple flash vendors, is that 1&1 opted to go for SolidFire's all-flash arrays for its needs.
SolidFire is a young but rapidly rising company. Founded only a few short years ago, SolidFire leverages the experience that its founder, Dave Wright, had after his previous company, JungleDisk, was acquired by Rackspace. Wright saw out his time at Rackspace helping that company build out its own cloud infrastructure and saw firsthand the difficulties presented by traditional approaches to storage.
At the same time, Wright leveraged the increasing availability and economic attractiveness of flash storage. Formerly prohibitively expensive, flash is now available at a price that is competitive with spinning disk. SolidFire can leverage flash's increased speed and reliability to build out a storage platform that has the best of all worlds: price competitiveness, high performance, and reliability.
SolidFire has, until recently, been focused purely on delivering a tightly converged solution that sees its proprietary software embedded onto flash and sold as a complete unit. More recently, however, SolidFire has started to realize that its platform is more broadly applicable than that and has real value as more of a storage-only offering. SolidFire has gone down the route of offering its product on pre-approved external hardware products. I suspect that over time, this approach will be broadened and SolidFire will offer its solutions as a broadly available software-only offering. Interestingly, SolidFire is so sure of its approach that it is offering customers guarantees of backwards compatibility so that future versions of the SolidFire operating system will work on older hardware solutions still under a support contract.
Another benefit that SolidFire brigs, and one which is particularly important to a use case that shows high levels of growth, is its ability to scale out without disruption. This ensures that deployment for 1&1's customers is painless, while also reducing operating complexity. In order to win the 1&1 deal, SolidFire had to prove that it could deliver the performance that 1&1 required, but at a price point that enables it to compete in the marketplace. Infrastructure pricing and performance analysis firm Cloud Spectator ran a number of tests and concluded that SolidFire delivered 1&1 a sustained 3-4x increase in storage performance and value over other web hosting companies with similar figures in CPU and RAM.
"Our aim is to make the cloud easy - that's our promise to our customers. We take the complexity of building and deploying a cloud away from our customers and focus on giving them a first-class cloud experience – low latency, maximum performance, and a simple pricing structure," said 1& 1's CEO Robert Hoffmann. "SolidFire enables 1&1 to easily create high-performance cloud deployments and scale them up or down based on our customers' business needs while providing each customer with the exact resources they require without impacting the performance of other customers."
Seeing raw vendor data is one thing, but seeing how a high-performance consumer of technology uses products to build and deliver its own solutions is a further proof point that is invaluable. The simplicity and performance that 1&1 was able to achieve by deploying SolidFire is something that the storage vendor is justifiably proud of.
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