XZim
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Nimble Storage

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I'm thinking of investing in Nimble Storage to replace our current FC SAN infrastructure. It is does some pretty clever stuff with SSD and snapshots for backup ...however they are a relatively new player in the storage game with a small (but growing)client base.

Anyone using Nimble already and what has your experience been particularly with running VSphere on this SAN?

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bawojcik
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Contributor

We switched from a Compellent FC based solution to Nimble last fall.

We have 2 CS-260 models. Everything connected to the storage is running on Cisco UCS blade servers which are running VMware ESXi 4.1. The guest OSes range from 2003 to 2008r2 and as far as server apps we run Exchange 2010, Sharepoint, 2010, Microsoft Dynamics/Great Plains - a few different varieties of SQL server - as well as some other odd and ends.

We moved from a Compellent system which was nearing end of life - most of our VM's are markedly faster, some aren't any faster, but they aren't any slower - the speed difference probably has to do with those VM's having been originally 2003 p2v-ed with the slowest virtual controller.

In addition we had significant space savings - we were using over 30TB on one system - the same VM's are now using just over 5TB (months later with snapsshots turned on). Based on what the GUI tells me only some of that was compression (35%) - the rest was white space.


The migration from our old storage to the Nimble was easy and without any incident - using storage vmotion. So far this has been the easiest storage migration I've done (I've moved from xiotech, to compellent, and back to xiotech and back to compellent in the past)

As far as complaints - nothing too much.  The Compellent GUI was more full featured than Nimble's (although they continue to improve it) - and some tasks require CLI interaction.  But I've always been able to get the job done - and I'm not a storage specialist - I am a smaller shop guy who handles all the infrastructure and netwrok stuff. I also did a minor 'point' upgrade - which went smoothly  - and which added a few things from the CLI into the GUI.

Let me know if you have any other questions

- Bernie

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MikeBrester
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Contributor

I have been using and working with Nimble since the day they hit the market. This was by far the best storage purchase I could have ever made for my company. We had the Nimble configure into a Vsphere 4.1 environment. Implementation was simple and connectivity in VMware was super easy. With the Nimble plugin for Vmware you can easily provision new volumes right from within Vmware. Not only can you provision these volumes but you can then add them to a volume collection so you can create your protection (snapshots). The snapshots work very well and they integrate into VMware nicely. I had my environment setup to do snaps of the volumes that had my VMDK files and I would not notice a single thing when these snaps would kick off. Unlike a traditional VMware snap that leaves behind the remnants that you have to go back to clean up later Nimble leaves no trace for you to go clean up in your VM environment. If one of your virtual machines some how gets corrupted you simply tell the Nimble to bring that snapshot online and then do a discovery inside Vsphere and reattach to your server.

For what some deem as a newer product or a versio 1 product I do not see it that way once I start looking at the people behind the product. I see this as at least a version 2 if not higher. They are far ahead the rest of their competition.

YangJerry
Contributor
Contributor

We decided to replace our EMC CX4 and Celerra with Nimble about 8 months ago.  This is the best SAN technology decision that I have ever made.

Here are the reasons:

1.  Unlike with EMC, you have to identify different tears of storage such as SSD, Fiber Channel and SATA.  With Nimble, there is only one tear.  All the I/O are proccess via SSD cache.  The speed and latency of Nimble is awesome.  No one has complaint about the slow storage and you don't have to ask every department managers to identify their first tear, second tear and third tear servers.

2.  Nimble's snapshotting system allowing me to retired and absoleted the file leve backup system such as Commvault and Symantec Backup Exec.  The snapshot is very efficient and only taking very little space.  Currently I am snapping 140 virtual servers 3 times a day and retaining 60 days.  Nimble has a "zero byte" snapshot cloning technology.  When I need to restore files of a Windows server, I can clone any of the previous snapshot and present it to VMware datastore, join to the inventory, power it on and place it to an isolated network then retrieve the files.  Becasue of the "zero byte" cloing, I can clone snapshots as many as necessary without worrying running out of disk space.  With Nimble, I have officially eliminated the backup operator's position.

3.  Site Recovery Manager by VMware has been successfully implemented between our production and failover sites.  Thanks to the Nimble replication / compression / deduplication technologies.  The site recovery agent, made by Nimble works very well with Site Recovery Manager.  I have tested failover and failback many times and Nimble was able to break the sychronization during the failover (the snapshots in the failover site become read/write) and re-establish the synchronization (sync from failover site back to production site) without full-synchronization.  Many kudos to Nimble!!

If I was still using EMC, the disaster recovery will never be completed because EMC has no deduplication technology with Celerra and it is not possible to re-establish the replication without full-synchronization.  The snapshot cloning techology is expensive because there is no "zero-byte" cloning and I have about 40TB of SATA storage cannnot be used because it is too slow.  Needless to say, in my opinion, Nimble is the best SAN technology in today's market place.

Josh26
Virtuoso
Virtuoso

Hi,

If I see two first time posters with what reads like a well written marketing spiel, only a few hours apart.

Can both of you confirm you're not attached to the product discussed? Forgive my harshness, but as a VMware partner I've been asked several times to give glowing reviews of SAN products I've never heard of.

On a technical note, Nimble only have three HCL listed products - they are all iSCSI only, whereas the competitive model discussed has FC offerings.

24TB usable seems to be their largest offering.

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YangJerry
Contributor
Contributor

1.  I am just one of many happy Nimble customers telling the absolute truth about this product.  Whether you believe this or not it is your opinion.  It is just too bad that you have not heard this awesome product.

2.  Yes, Nimble only offers iSCSI.  I mentioned several times that we used to use Celerra.  Celerra is EMC's iSCSI and NFS solution that sits on top of CX4.  We have a 10Gb Ethernet backbone so we only use iSCSI.  I am comparing apple-to-apple.

3.  24TB is the largest capacity for now.  16TB Expansion tray are coming out within next 6 months.

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bawojcik
Contributor
Contributor

We switched from a Compellent FC based solution to Nimble last fall.

We have 2 CS-260 models. Everything connected to the storage is running on Cisco UCS blade servers which are running VMware ESXi 4.1. The guest OSes range from 2003 to 2008r2 and as far as server apps we run Exchange 2010, Sharepoint, 2010, Microsoft Dynamics/Great Plains - a few different varieties of SQL server - as well as some other odd and ends.

We moved from a Compellent system which was nearing end of life - most of our VM's are markedly faster, some aren't any faster, but they aren't any slower - the speed difference probably has to do with those VM's having been originally 2003 p2v-ed with the slowest virtual controller.

In addition we had significant space savings - we were using over 30TB on one system - the same VM's are now using just over 5TB (months later with snapsshots turned on). Based on what the GUI tells me only some of that was compression (35%) - the rest was white space.


The migration from our old storage to the Nimble was easy and without any incident - using storage vmotion. So far this has been the easiest storage migration I've done (I've moved from xiotech, to compellent, and back to xiotech and back to compellent in the past)

As far as complaints - nothing too much.  The Compellent GUI was more full featured than Nimble's (although they continue to improve it) - and some tasks require CLI interaction.  But I've always been able to get the job done - and I'm not a storage specialist - I am a smaller shop guy who handles all the infrastructure and netwrok stuff. I also did a minor 'point' upgrade - which went smoothly  - and which added a few things from the CLI into the GUI.

Let me know if you have any other questions

- Bernie

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Clarksville
Contributor
Contributor

We are a medium sized business (270 employees) and purchased 2 Nimble SANs in Jan 2011.   I originally had caution about it being a ver 1 product, but we’ve had minimal issues.   When we have had need for assistance, their tech support has been very above average.   We run 4 Vmware Vsphere 4.1 hosts with 40+ VMs.   Included in the mix is large MS-SQL database, Exchange, Citrix XenApp, large file system with dicom images and scanned .tifs.   We have the 2nd Nimble SAN placed out of town.  We snapshot and and replicate to the secondary over a 10MB Internet VPN.   I like ability to recover from a snapshot verses our old solution that involved recovering over network from traditional backup software.   They have a VMware best practices guide that is a helpful read.  Because I wear a lot of hats at my company, I’m not a storage specialist and that is what is so great about Nimble.   An I.T. generalist can read their admin guide, spend some time in the GUI, and a with a little assistance from Nimble support on occasion, be very proficient with this product.   99% of what I’ve needed to do can be done from the GUI.    I’ve upgraded the firmware myself twice while running a light user load.  No downtime was required, but only a briefly noticeable delay when failover to the 2nd controller occurred.   I may appreciate the improved manageability more than others, because the SAN environment that Nimble replaced did require MUCH focused effort and expertise to manage.  (EM* CX5**&, Celer*, Legat* with tape library, lots of detailed documentation to manage…)

I can confirm their product does what their materials states it will do!  Performance has been great.  The only area where I’ve come up a little short is that my compression gain has been below the stated averages, but results will be expected to vary depending on your environment.    Nimble has proven to be a high value investment for our company.    I wish all of my purchase decisions turned out this good.  Russell

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bawojcik
Contributor
Contributor

I can understand some skepticism  - I think we have all heard hyped sales spiel - I think for the original poster that comes back to finding a reseller that they can trust - who actually knows multiple products and the ins and outs of getting the customer's unique environment working on the right products.

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XZim
Contributor
Contributor

Thanks all for this constructive and really helpful feedback.

I guess my biggest concern has been that I have traditionally followed well established products that have a significant client base of satified customers (we have two Clariions).

When Nimble was introduced to me a few weeks ago it was almost too good to be true. You get the impression that that this is an almost revolutionary approach to storage in comparison to what all the major vendors are offering (including VNX,Compellent,Eqallogic).I have a feeling that these guys (they have a team of ex NetApp and Data Domain people) are on to something really good - especially for those of us in the SME market - but it is still risky early days considering that they currently have a handful of customers in the UK and apparently only a couple of hundred in the States. Also we will have to wait for the expansion arrays because 24 TB (albeit compressed) is not going to be enough for our estate.

However, the potential benefits are enormous for us.My colleague and I spend far too much time configuring,tiering and upgrading storage - we want something simpler and easier to implement that is also scalable (no more forklift upgrades!) . We are also looking for a solution to the growing mountain of backups that we are continually "wrestling" with on a daily basis.If Nimble does "what it says on the tin" then this could be our solution to many headaches.

Great to hear positive feedback from people who are using the product and are happy with it. The next step I guess is I'm going to try get some of their kit to test and evaluate before taking any potential plunge!

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emelllenthin
Contributor
Contributor

I can also understand some skepticism with regards to nimble. They are a new company with some really great ideas.  Sizing is always going to be application specific, but I can say the compression really does work well with basically no overheard to I/O (which is something that I did not believe until I saw it myself).

We are going to see some good stuff from this company in the next few years. I think the days of Fiber dominating the market place just because storage administrators do not understand / embrace ISCSI and fear for their jobs are coming to a close. I am not a marketing person / or a reseller as a matter of fact we were an early adopter of Equallogic which replaced a HP FC EVA and that was one of the smartest moves we ever made.  Now with the purchase of Equallogic by Dell my enthusiasm for them has been tempered a bit.  Nimble fills a great void in iSCSI storage in my opinion.

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ahahum
Contributor
Contributor

We got our Nimble CS-220 in Janurary and couldn't be happier.  We replaced our aging CX-300.  Some of the things that are most impressive to me:

Small Footprint.  3U vs our old 4 tray EMC.  I can't wait to see the power savings once we power off the EMC this week.

Space savings.  The 1 thing I didn't realize when going through the discovery and acquisition process was that free space on VMs would not be counted against used storage on the Nimble even if the VMDK was thick provisioned.  This alone has given us some great space savings.  We have also seen quite a bit of space savings with our MSSQL server which is directly connected to the iSCSI network.

Snapshot space - in the end, our decision was made on snapshot effeiciency of these units.  We had narrowed it down to EQL and Nimble.  The EQL has ineffecient use of space with regard to snapshots.

We have a spares kit on hand that has every field replacable part for the array.  This is better, in my opinion, then having to wait for a field engineer.  I can swap a drive out within minutes of losing one instead of waiting hours for the tech.

The VMware integration is great - especially coming from the CX world with ZERO inegration.  From within VSphere I can easily make a clone of a snapshot and it is brought online automatically.  At that point, I can either power up the VM or just attach the VMDK to a running VM and get the files I need.

You would be doing yourself a favor to look into this company for your storage needs.  Much simpler to operate.  This company has a lot of promise and some very exciting things on the horizon.

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Benjamin_Craig
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

We are a "small enterprise" company (300 employees, 12 branches, 1B in assets). I've been an Equallogic customer since 2003 and have a lot of experience with Rocket Division, LeftHand, NetApp and EMC. When comparing FC and iSCSI I usually like to throw out the caveat that each technology has its merits and that your mileage will vary depending on the applications you’re hosting.  For instance, if the majority of your data is synchronous writes (such is the case with production video streaming) than FC or 10Gb FCOE may be a good fit for you as these are lossless (in the case of FC) or near lossless (depending on your switches’ capabilities) technologies.  Also, each vendor has its own merits – I’m happy to say I have close friends that work at each major storage vendor and they all have some interesting facet of their technology that may be a “buy criteria” for you.

Having said that, we recently put in a set of Nimble CS240Gs for a VDI project in favor of expanding our Equallogic footprint, and I could not be happier about that decision.  At my former company I was an early adopter of Equallogic, they were a game-changer at the time, and for years I could not have been happier with their solution.  In time, as they grew their support suffered – dramatically – and their firmware/software quality control went with it.  This left me with an admittedly negative perception of their ability to execute, so I was open to the idea of selecting a different vendor for our VDI project.  We looked at EMC’s and NetApp’s current offerings, and although they’ve added quite a lot of functionality and features (most of which are either licensed or charged in the next cycle of maintenance renewals), their underlying technology was not dramatically different from what I’ve experienced in the past.  Good companies, good technology, expensive, hit-or-miss with the support, but nowhere near as impressive as the Nimble storage we ultimately selected.

I reached out to a colleague of mine, formerly of DataDomain who left to join the Nimble team, for a product demonstration.  In short, if I didn’t have a lot of personal trust in this guy, I would have thought he was selling snake-oil – it sounded too good to be true.  He recognized my skepticism for what it was and ponied up a couple of CS240Gs for our evaluation.  I was blown away by their performance.  Here’s my 10,000 foot impressions of their solution:

  1. Setup – I didn’t think it possible, but their user interface is actually easier than Equallogic’s.  Drawback is that it depends on Flash objects for some graphs instead of HTML5.  I was able to get up and running with vSphere in about 20 minutes without the sales engineer’s help (in fact I intuitively setup 99% of it on my own).  The UI is a little sparse, but it does what I need of it and I expect they will be improving upon it in future releases.

  1. Snapshots – We have a secondary datacenter four-hundred miles away.  We replicate our data as frequently as every 5 minutes (for mission critical volumes) – this takes up a TON of space on the Equallogic.  For instance, our two Exchange servers and an Active Directory server take up only 240GB (thin provisioned) of actual space, but we were using a total of 8.5TB between both datacenters to take snapshots/replicas every other hour between 0500hrs and 2100hrs for a week.  Replicating the exact same data with the exact same frequency, we are only taking up 490GB on the Nimble arrays.  Also, adding protection to a Nimble volume is about as easy as it gets.  You can optionally do crash-consistent standard SAN snapshots, or you can directly communicate with Microsoft VSS, Oracle, or vSphere to incorporate application quiescent snapshots.  In the latter case the SAN directly communicates with vCenter or the ESXi hosts, leveraging the vBackup API to take VMware-aware snaps, then take SAN snaps, then releases the VMware snaps – all without the need for a separate appliance, module, or additive license option.

  1. Performance – So we figured we’d be sacrificing some performance for that awesome snapshot efficiency – imagine our surprise when our backup software (latest version of Symantec BackupExec) reported a consistent and re-creatable 500% improvement in backup times and throughput.  Considering we have two PS6510X 10Gb Equallogic members (48 drives each) configured in RAID 10 and only one CS240G (for now) – that’s pretty impressive.  I chose to be an early adopter of Equallogic almost a decade ago and wouldn’t have had it any other way, so gave the Nimble a shot, pounded on their solution for a solid month, and bought it before our trial was over.  We were seeing incredible performance with the Nimble arrays: We pushed them to their max with all that our servers could deliver and they never broke a sweat.  We even “vStorage Motioned” production databases onto it while running intense tests and actually saw a performance gain on those applications.

  1. Support – It’s true that Nimble is a relatively new player in the field, but their people are not; I know about ten of the people who joined Nimble from NetApp, DataDomain, and Equallogic – some of which I’ve worked with for over a decade.  I would say that Nimble’s product is the most stable “version 1.x” I’ve ever seen.  From what I’ve observed, they are committed to providing safe, frequent, and stable feature enhancements and have a solid roadmap for the next three years.  I have engaged their support department twice, both times my problem was resolved in minutes, not hours – when I spoke with their “level 1” support they were proficient and competent – when they needed to escalate my issue it was immediately escalated to an engineer who immediately resolved my problem.  Equallogic used to have service like this. Frankly the only reason I buy into the concept of a commercial SAN is because I value knowing the manufacturer has the tools, talent, and motivation to address my problems and take them as seriously as I do.  The way I see it, SAN technology is becoming more of a commodity as time goes on; what differentiates leaders from followers is their ability to service my needs, provide constantly innovative solutions, and strive to add value – in my opinion Nimble delivers on these traits.

If you want any more information on our implementation or feedback on our experiences, feel free to PM me.

Benjamin Craig

SVP, Chief Technology Officer

Northrim Bank

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legacyb4
Contributor
Contributor

I manage a modest network of about 120 users and after working towards a goal of being 100% virtualized, took a leap of faith on investing in a proper shared SAN infrastructure to support my 3 hosts.

For someone new to the "enterprise" storage game, it came down to dollars and where I'd get best bang for buck. After spending many hours in vendor seminars listening to the marketingspeak, it really came down to a) best performance for dollars invested and b) ease of use as I am a one man infrastructure team.

I had run Dell's testing tools across my environment to determine the ideal mix of hardware needed in an EqualLogic array to support the IOs being generated by my system and when the results came back, I would not have been able to afford the package that was being recommended. Add to that the additional cost burden of having to work an off-site DR strategy into the mix and hardware & licensing costs quickly spiralled beyond my reach.

Nimble happened to have been one of the vendors showing at the local VMUG conference held here and at the time, I had actually not spent a lot of time looking at their product line. However, after having had a crash course on what my storage needs were shaping up to be, I decided that a revisit was worth my time. I spent several more hours attending a couple of deep dive product sessions to really learn what the product was about and decided to take a gamble on this new product.

Needless to say, I am now 6 months into the product and my only regret is that I didn't have more budget to accomodate a larger array. The product has been rock solid, provides performance beyond what I was expecting, and I've been extremely pleased with the level of technical support that the company has provided in troubleshooting some issues which ended up not being their direct issue after all. The product performs as claimed, even with the ability to perform firmware upgrades in the middle of a busy day without any impact on my users. In fact, the only real "oh s&$!" moment I had was because I hadn't followed iSCSI configuration directions correctly and had a server temporarily hang while trying to reconnect to the iSCSI volume after rebooting. I've got my Nimble hooked up to an existing, inexpensive Dell 5424 and while I could probably squeeze out even better performance with a higher-end switch, I was able to hit the ground running without having to invest more dollars than I had.

To my point about ease of use, after the initial few hours working with the system and figuring out where & how settings affected things, it's really been a plug & play unit. I leave a browser window open out of habit with the Performance tab loaded to keep an eye on throughput but have yet to see an issue arise other than the occasional alert.

The ability to dynamically grow volumes in a pinch without waiting is fantastic as is the ability to have separate control on retention schedules for snapshots across my primary and off-site unit.


Would I have had the same functionality with a different vendor or would I have been equally pleased with my investment in a different platform? Perhaps, yes; however, the point is that Nimble has delivered what was promised and at a price that would be hard to beat and would recommend this as a solution to anyone looking for something to build out their virtualized environment.

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legacyb4
Contributor
Contributor

Also wanted to embellish a little more on what is probably the 'unsung hero' feature of the Nimble array: license-free replication.

Granted, you will need two arrays to pull this off, but balance that against the cost of managing backups and the time required to restore from backup and you'll find that it's easily worth the price.

The fact that i'm able to replicate my Active Directory, Exchange and SQL environment in their entirety (not just backed up databases) in highly compact snapshots in whatever time frame (depending on your bandwidth, of course) and can bring the entire environment online at my DR site (minus some manual work on IP reconfiguration) in a matter of minutes says a lot about what the Nimble can do for you & your workload.

Add that to their highly efficient, redundant hardware design and you've got a very attractive 3U hardware package in your server environment.

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lbenton
Contributor
Contributor

I would definitely test it out to see what your own experience is before making any decision.

In January, we ended up replacing our production Clariion CX3-40 with a Nimble array and seeing no difference in performance, largely due to CPU being our application's bottleneck.  We tested NetApp, Tintri, EMC VNX, and Pure Storage before deciding to keep Nimble in production. 

We didn't have any complex requirements.  I'm not using their snapshot features today.  Compression for my vm's averages about 50%.  I'd love to use their replication and tie it in with SRM but the Disaster Recovery site storage upgrade isn't in the cards right now.

My biggest concerns with Nimble were performance, how long would RAID rebuilds take and the impact of a controller or switch failure.  We tested all but RAID rebuilds and didn't really notice any issues as the standby controller took over.

I can say that the support has been great.  Quality of the support was a key requirement for me given some issues I had with EMC Clariion support.  I get quick responses from the Nimble support people.  Today, Nimble doesn't offer 24x7x4 hour response time for hardware failures. I believe it's NBD.  We're picking up the spare parts kit because of that.

The sales people I dealt with (as well as the VAR we bought through) have stayed well involved after the deal was closed.  Nimble does take feedback to heart from what I can tell.

Lastly, the install was pretty easy to do without much help.  Given our IT department is pretty small, that the install and maintenance of the array doesn't require a dedicated storage admin makes it all the better.

Good Luck.

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Slingsh0t
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

This all sounds like marketing hype!  Can posters please confirm that there is no Nimble induced incentive here for putting up "rave" reviews?  I'm not dissing the product at all here, it may be as good as people say, but I'm less inclined to believe it when I see threads like this show up.

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ahahum
Contributor
Contributor

You didn't hear?  They're giving half off the price of a new array if we go on the forums and lie about how awesome their product is.

Kidding - no incentive that I'm aware of.  Simply a great product that does what it says it will.  Simple as that.

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bawojcik
Contributor
Contributor

I could make a smart aleck response...

Smiley Wink

- but I will just tell anyone who is considering Nimble and wants to find out more information from someone who is actually a customer  - to send me a message  - I'll be glad to help. I've been a lurker for while  whenever I have time but I've never posted before.

And I can't speak for anyone else but - full disclousure- my sales rep let me know about the question on the forums and asked me if I would post something "about your Nimble Storage experience"

That was it.

And because I am a nice guy...

:smileygrin:

- I will also post some of the screenshots I took while testing and implementing my Nimble system.

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Josh26
Virtuoso
Virtuoso

I rest my case.

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bawojcik
Contributor
Contributor

What case is that Josh?

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