Isilon Adds Thin Provisioning, Clusters

Clustered NAS specialist unwraps new hardware and thin provisioning software

July 24, 2007

3 Min Read
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Clustering specialist Isilon is the latest vendor to add thin provisioning to its product line, unveiling souped-up hardware and software today. (See Isilon Releases New Systems.)

Thin provisioning, which aims to ensure that physical disk capacity is used only as it is needed, is a hot topic for many storage vendors. (See 3PAR Debuts 'Thin Provisioning', Pillar Pushes Provisioning, Capacity, Thin Is Definitely In, and A Data Reduction Dossier.) Recent weeks have seen a frenzy of activity around the topic, with EMC slowly adding flesh to the bones of its strategy, Compellent tying its NAS offerings closer to Microsoft, and a war of words breaking out over who invented the technology. (See EMC's Thin Pickings, Compellent Adds Integral NAS, Revisiting Thin Provisioning's 'Firsts', Tips for Risk-Free Thin Provisioning.)

Isilon's thin provisioning relies on software called SmartQuotas that runs on top of the vendor's OneFS operating system. This enables IT administrators to allocate storage beyond what is physically available and also set limits for how much storage a user or group of users can access. "It's a license key [that] runs across the entire product line," explains Brett Goodwin, Isilon's vice president of marketing and business development.

At least one analyst says that thin provisioning, which is already being used by Isilon rival EMC on its Celerra family, is a crucial addition to the Isilon product line. (See Thin Is Definitely In.) "With Isilon, because it's a single file system, you need thin provisioning," says Tony Asaro of the Enterprise Strategy Group, adding that this can be used to provision storage on a per-application or per-user basis.

Isilon also added to its high-end clustering hardware today, taking the wraps off the 9-Tbyte IQ 9000, which contains twelve 750-Gbyte SATA disks from Seagate. The two-rack-unit-high box is 3 Tbytes larger than Isilon's previous high-end offering, the IQ 6000, which contains 500-Gbyte SATA disks.The IQ 9000 also contains 4.5 Gbytes of memory, two InfiniBand ports, and two gigabit Ethernet ports. Users looking to deploy the clustering technology will need a minimum of three IQ 9000s running in a cluster, according to Isilon.

A stripped-down version of the IQ 9000, the EX 9000, was also launched today. Without the memory and port connectivity features, the EX 9000 essentially offers additional raw storage capacity for the IQ 9000.

The hardware devices and the SmartQuotas software are all available today.

One early adopter of the technology is Steven Nygard, chief operating officer of Austin, Texas-based e-discovery service provider Renew Data. With 100 Tbytes of storage already clustered on 34 of Isilon's IQ 3000 devices, Nygard is now testing three IQ 9000s and the SmartQuotas software.

The exec explains that, prior to the release of SmartQuotas, Renew Data's options for dividing up its cluster were limited. "If we wanted to create a 10-Tbyte cluster and a 90-Tbyte cluster, we had to create two separate clusters," he says, explaining that he now no longer needs to split his actual hardware. "With SmartQuotas, we can enforce cluster size by [software] policy, as opposed to physically."Despite these benefits, Nygard is keen to see Isilon enhance SmartQuotas. "In the future, I would like to see them add compression, that's one thing that they don't have now."

Isilon is not the only vendor bulking up its clustered NAS offerings at the moment. Last week, for example, EMC unveiled its Celerra NS20 device, which, unlike the IQ 9000, can scale up to 20 Tbytes. (See EMC Plans Product Blitz.)

EMC said pricing for the NS20 starts at $34,000, although the vendor does not break out specific configuration or per-Tbyte pricing.

Isilon's IQ 9000 is priced at $37,250 per node, or $4,100 per Tbyte. Pricing for the EX 9000 is $22,250 per node, or just under $2,500 per Tbyte.

SmartQuotas is priced at $1,950 per 12-disk node for most Isilon hardware, although list price for the software running on the entry level IQ 200 is $450 per node.James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • Compellent Technologies Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG)

  • Isilon Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISLN)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Pillar Data Systems Inc.

  • 3PAR Inc.

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