Isilon Moves Down, Adaptec Moves Up

One NAS bulks up, the other strips down to broaden file server capabilities

January 23, 2007

4 Min Read
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Isilon and Adaptec -- NAS vendors who compete with larger vendors by targeting their platforms to specific markets -- are expanding their product families. (See Isilon Adds System, OEM Deal and Adaptec Launches NAS.)

Isilon is moving downward, rolling out a lower-end version of its clustered storage systems -- the IQ 200. Adaptec is going upstream, bringing out the highest end of its resurrected NAS family, the Snap Server 650.

Here's a rundown on both platforms:

Isilon IQ 200. Rather than take on NAS giants EMC and Network Appliance head-on, Isilon has built its systems specifically for companies looking for clustered systems. (See Energy Firms Clamor for Clusters and Storage Shapes Up for Multimedia.) Isilon has about 300 customers using its enterprise systems, mostly in the broadcast, oil and gas exploration, life sciences, and telco verticals. Following its IPO last month, the company is looking to broaden its market presence with a lower-cost system that could bring it into shops and departments that don't want to fork over $80,000 or so for storage. (See Double-Take, Isilon Go Public.)

The IQ200 has a list price of $39,000 for a three-node cluster that includes 6 Tbytes of capacity. The 1U boxes run the same OneFS operating system as Isilons higher-end systems, and the same snapshot, replication, and load-balancing applications are available for additional licenses. (See Isilon Updates Software.)On the downside, IQ 200 users give up scalability and performance. The IQ 200 scales from three to 48 nodes and from 6 Tbytes to 48 Tbytes of capacity, while Isilon's enterprise systems scale to 96 nodes and 1 Pbyte.

Also, the IQ 200 uses Gigabit Ethernet rather than higher-performing InfiniBand to connect to storage. (See Isilon Embraces InfiniBand.) Isilon also offers accelerator nodes for its enterprise systems, but not for the IQ 200. (See Isilon Taps the Accelerator.)

At least one user is willing to take the tradeoff. Geoff Froh, technical manager of the non-profit Densho digital archive project, says he is upgrading his outdated Isilon IQ 1440 systems with the IQ 200. He’ll save around $40,000 by moving to the lower-cost systems rather than deploying Isilon’s enterprise systems, and he says the new boxes perform well enough for him.

“Since we’re a non-profit, we’re conscious of economics,” Froh says. “This allows us to expand out quicker than we could have with the more expensive systems."

Densho shoots and preserves video oral histories of Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. Froh says Densho has about 500 hours of video in its archives and expects to add about 100 hours a year. The organization also has approximately 20,000 photographs.Froh says Dansho's archiving project doesn’t need the higher-end features he’ll be giving up with the new system.

“The main difference is, [the IQ 200] doesn’t support InfiniBand on the back end,” he says. “Frankly, we’re not using that on the 1440, and it wasn’t part of our plan. We don’t have thousands of users simultaneously accessing clusters -- we’re moving large video files through a production workflow. A GigE backbone is perfect for us, we already have that.”

Speaking of video: Harris Corp. will expand its OEM deal with Isilon to offer the IQ 200 with its Nexio video server platform. (See Harris, Isilon Tout Agreement.)

Adaptec Snap Server 650. Adaptec has built out its Snap Server line since it decided last year to keep the systems it bought from Snap in 2004 instead of selling off the business. (See Snap Server to Expand and Adaptec Says Sayonara to Systems.) The Snap Server 650 is the high end of what remains predominantly a low-end family. The latest system scales to 64.2 Tbytes and is aimed at small enterprises.

Adaptec last year rolled out Snap Server models aimed at the desktop and remote offices and rackmount systems for departmental use. (See Adaptec Launches Servers.)Pricing for the Snap Server 650 starts at $16,000 for 1.2 Tbytes of capacity, and it is available with SAS or SATA drives. Product manager David Porter says he expects customers to use it primarily for email, databases, and video surveillance systems.

Like Snap before it, Adaptec has tried to avoid the larger NAS players by going after smaller shops. As low-end NAS, the Snap systems primarily compete with Windows-based NAS from Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Iomega, and smaller vendors.

Porter says a family approach should enable Snap Server 650 to compete in a market space dominated by Windows. All the Snap Servers are built on Adaptec's GuardianOS operating system and include BakBone's NetVault backup software with a 500-Gbyte VTL license.

"We also address remote offices, and no single vendor provides all the platforms we do," Porter says. "NetApp can’t go down to the desktop, and lower end [Windows] competitors can’t move up to smaller enterprise systems."

Analyst Brad O'Neill of the Taneja Group says Adaptec is broadening the product line without abandoning Snap's strategy of staying out of large enterprise accounts.“Adaptec put Snap through a comprehensive refresh,” says O’Neill. “They took what was known as a reliable point product and turned it into a product family.”

— Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

  • complink 69|Adaptec Inc.}

  • BakBone Software Inc.

  • Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Harris Corp. (NYSE: HRS)

  • Iomega Corp. (NYSE: IOM)

  • Isilon Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISLN)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Taneja Group

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