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Isilon's Counting on Clusters

4:45 PM -- Isilon's got a problem, as shown in its latest earnings report. It needs to make good on its promise of upcoming profitability, or risk the position it's gained in the market. (See Isilon Bleeds, Vows Profits.) And to get ahead, it must overcome two little obstacles: EMC and Network Appliance.

It's not quite David and Goliath. Though Isilon remains a speck in the overall NAS market compared to EMC and NetApp, it has made inroads in the clustered storage segment the NAS leaders were slow to embrace. Meanwhile, Isilon and other smaller firms, such as Exanet, OnStor, and Panasas, offer features such as CDP their larger competitors haven't quite gotten around to adding. (See Clusters & CDP: Well Matched.)

True, NetApp has offered its Data Ontap GX operating system for clustered NAS since last June 2006, and EMC resells clustered software from Ibrix. But according to Isilon, it's debatable whether either company has made much of an impact in clusters, particularly in the broadcast media segment, where Isilon's staked its chief claim. (See NetApp's GX Targets HPC and Ibrix Joins EMC Select.)

"We always see their traditional filers, [but] we're not seeing any more of Ontap GX or Ibrix," said Isilon marketing VP Brett Goodwin of EMC and NetApp on the earnings call yesterday.

An accurate take, or whistling in the dark? Isilon's future rests on the answer.

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