Isilon Steps on the Gas

Isilon refreshes its clustering line, as it looks to put the events of last year behind it

January 29, 2008

4 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Clustering specialist Isilon unveiled a major overhaul of its hardware today, taking the wraps off its high-end X-Series device in an attempt to jumpstart its business.

The vendor has upgraded the hardware within its IQ line of products, which will now be sold as the X-Series. Isilon is particularly focused on the revamped X 12000, formerly known as the IQ 12000.

"The X-Series is up to 60 percent faster, specifically for [data] writes," explains Brett Goodwin, Isilon's vice president of marketing and business development. "And it requires 20 percent less power on a per-node and per-Tbyte basis. Its probably the biggest end-to-end upgrade to our product line since 2005."

The exec claims that the two-rack-unit-high X-Series boxes can now write data at up to 10 Gbytes per second in a single file system, thanks to dual-core Intel 5100 processors. "We have gone from a single processor [on the IQ line], to a dual-core processor," explains Goodwin, adding that the chips' memory speed has more than doubled from 333 MHz to 667 MHz.

The dual-core CPUs also consume just 80 watts of power, compared to 130 watts on the IQ hardware's single-core chips. Isilon has also partnered with cooling specialist ColdWatt to deploy power management software on each box."We have got specialized firmware that manages the way the power is drawn and regulates itself," says Goodwin.

At least one analyst thinks these enhancements represent a step in the right direction. "With the multi-core processors, they are setting the stage for some powerful computing," says Forrester research analyst Andrew Reichman.

But he warns that Isilon still needs to address the execution problems behind the company's losses and financial upheaval last year.

"No matter how exciting the technology is, the market hasn't validated that," he adds, alluding to Isilon's rocky start to life as a public company, which saw the vendor swap its CEO and change its CFO.

"The key thing that happened to Isilon in 2007 was that expectations on Wall Street were extremely high," explains Goodwin. "Obviously, we got punished for that."Despite these problems, the exec tells Byte and Switch that Isilon now has around 600 customers, double the size of its customer list 12 months ago.

The vendor nonetheless faces stiff competition from its rivals, notably EMC with its high-end Celerra products, and NetApp with its 6000 Series.

Traditionally, Isilon has aimed its products at specialist users, mainly Web 2.0 companies such as MySpace and Kodak EasyShare, but the supplier is now looking to target more traditional enterprises, according to Brad Nisbet, research manager at IDC.

"The major vendors don't necessarily have competitive products, but they do recognize this [part of the market] as an opportunity," says Nisbet, pointing to EMC's planned "Hulk" and "Maui" products and NetApp's focus on developing its Ontap GX technology.

"There's another set of customers that continue to emerge as an opportunity for Isilon and others that are more traditional enterprises experiencing an influx of file-based data," he says. "It's word documents, and spreadsheets, and the proliferation of these via email."Like the previous IQ family of hardware, the X-Series can be deployed in a 1.6-Pbyte, 96-node cluster, although Isilon has ramped up its partner activity around the new boxes. In addition to the deal with ColdWatt, the X-Series has been qualified to work with Cisco's Wide Area Application Services (WAAS), and Isilon also announced a technology partnership with Riverbed today.

The X-Series has also been certified to work with VMware's ESX Server 3.0, something that could be key in luring enterprises onto the platform. "I like to see that -- it's a good way for companies like Isilon to get out of their Web 2.0 niche," says IDC's Nisbet. "Mainstream organizations are looking to virtualize their environments, and they need to make sure that the storage doesn't become the limiting factor."

Isilon's Goodwin tells Byte and Switch that more than 60 customers have already purchased X-Series hardware, although only a handful of these have been made public. Early adopters include Isilon's key customer Kodak, the Austin Radiological Association, the PetroChina Company, and Calgary, Alberta-based oil exploration company Arcis.

The X-Series hardware is available now, priced from $2,500 per Tbyte for the highest capacity successor to the IQ 12000, and $12,000 per Tbyte for the highest performance successor to the low-end IQ 1920. This pricing represents no change compared to Isilon's IQ hardware, according to Goodwin.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • ColdWatt Inc.

  • Eastman Kodak Co.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Forrester Research Inc.

  • Isilon Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISLN)

  • MySpace

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD)

  • VMware Inc.

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights