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At EMC, Scale Out Storage Grows Up

EMC shows that scale-out storage systems aren't just for big pools of unstructured data.

8 Great Cloud Storage Services
8 Great Cloud Storage Services
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Scale-out storage systems have proven to be a perfect remedy for coping with the flood of unstructured data inundating enterprise IT. Whether it's user home directories, email system repositories or rich media file shares, scale-out arrays, where capacity can be quickly increased by adding Lego-like storage nodes, have proven to be easier to deploy and scale than traditional big iron storage systems.

When it comes to scale out, EMC was quick to recognize the shifting technology landscape by scooping up Isilon more than two years ago. While Isilon supplied the base technology, quickly becoming the most popular scale-out systems in the market, this year's EMC Worlddemonstrates the EMC influence coming through in a big way. The company is introducing a new version of the OS, oneFS; breaking out of the traditional scale-out usage silos; and positioning modular storage systems such as Isilon to be key components in a new era of software-defined storage and big-data applications. As such, the big news about Isilon at this year's EMC World has nothing to do with new hardware and is all about adding new software features.

As we outlined in this Network Computing column detailing EMC's major software-defined storage product, ViPR, Isilon arrays can be full participants in virtualized, heterogenous storage pools that can include everything from high-performance VMAX and VNX arrays to Atmos private cloud object stores. But it's now clear that Isilon is inheriting other strands of EMC's enterprise DNA as several features of the upgraded oneFS are atypical for scale-out systems.

[ Struggling with deduplication? Read The Primary Storage Deduplication Problem. ]

First up is block-level deduplication that uses compression policies -- such as which file types or application stores receive data compression -- that can be tailored to specific directories or applied to entire storage pools. EMC is also beefing up Isilon's reporting and auditing features by adding support for the firm's Common Event Enabler (CEE). CEE is a software interface that standardizes event tracking and logging of things such as file access, modification or permissions changes, used by third-party audit and governance software such as Varonis. Sam Grocott, VP of product marketing for Isilon, said audit features are necessary as heavily regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare increasingly turn to scale storage.

Isilon arrays could already run native HDFS 1.0; the new oneFS release adds simultaneous support for 2.0 and Pivotal HD, sister company Pivotal's Hadoop distribution. This means users can try experimental Hadoop applications requiring the new big-data filesystem version without moving data to another array. The release also adds a REST API for accessing the object namespace, enabling a new generation of automation, orchestration and management applications.

The final significant new feature, according to Grocutt, is integration with Syncplicity, EMC's file sync and sharing application that he characterizes as a private, enterprise-controlled Dropbox. Like popular consumer-oriented services, Syncplicity makes it easy for mobile users to access, share and synchronize data across a multitude of platforms. However, in contrast to at least the free versions of those products, it provides IT central control over the data, usage policies and security, including offering native encrypted storage. Isilon's Syncplicity support exposes Isilon storage via HTTP and Webdav, and is fully compatible with the existing Syncplity native apps for iOS, Android Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 tablets, including RT.

Grocutt says HDFS 2.0 support and the REST API are available now, while deduplication, ViPR integration and the object store APIs for natively accessing objects on Atmos, S3 and OpenStack (aka Swift) will roll out later this year.

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