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Dell EMC's making XtremIO multi-protocol

EMC’s XtremIO all-flash SAN is getting a file-system injection thanks to Dell Fluid File System (FluidFS).

Dell EMC previewed the NAS capabilities for XtremIO at Dell EMC World, saying they would be generally available by late 2017. FluidFS is a scale-out NAS technology that Dell acquired from Exanet in 2010 and used to add file capabilities to its Compellent and EqualLogic SAN arrays. But even before Dell acquired EMC for more than $60 billion, the development teams from XtremIO and FluidFS – both based in Israel – were collaborating on their integration.

Chris Ratcliffe, Dell EMC senior vice president of core technologies, jokingly referred to the joint development as a “black ops” operation. The integration will add NFS, SMB, Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) and NDMP to XtremIO’s current Fibre Chanel and iSCSI block storage support.

As when Dell added FluidFS to Compellent and EqualLogic, XtremIO will require a separate piece of hardware to deliver file services. XtremIO CTO Itzik Reich called the appliance an extension to XtremIO rather than a full gateway, and said the XtremIO approach will not impact performance. He also said file storage will be managed through the same interface as block storage with “the same look and feel.”

Reich said the original design goal for ExtremIO included adding data services in later iterations. “What’s in the market today is just the beginning,” he said of the product that EMC claims has more than 3,000 customers and $3 billion in revenue in three years on the market. He also said there will be a lot more added to the next-generation XtremIO, including more drives, higher capacity SSDs and software-defined storage capabilities.

“We were looking for ways to complement our scale-out architecture,” he said. “We wanted it to be more than just Fibre Channel. When we heard talk of a partnership, I gave Michael (Dell) a call and said this is a good project for us to add file services.”

Dell EMC this week announced plans to deliver an all-flash version of its Isilon scale-out NAS platform in 2017. Isilon is aimed at traditional scale-out NAS use cases such as media/entertainment, life sciences and Hadoop analytics. Ratcliffe said XtremIO’s NAS would be more for traditional SAN customers. “This is scale-out NAS for transactional environments that require sub-millisecond response times,” he said.

Reich estimated it would have taken at least five years to build file services from scratch into XtremIO. His team looked at filesy stems from EMC’s Unity unified and Isilon scale-out NAS but determined FluidFS fit better with XtremIO’s architecture.

“Unity doesn’t scale out,” he said. “Isilon scales out like nobody’s business, but it doesn’t provide the latency we need.”

EMC’s Unity, Isilon and VMAX All-Flash arrays already support 15 TB SSDs, but they won’t be available on XtremIO until the next generation. Reich said his team wants to make sure using the higher capacity drives will not impact performance. “People don’t realize, the larger the drive capacity gets, the worse the performance gets,” he said. “We are not willing to sacrifice our predictable performance.”