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Isilon ready to go live with 'Maverick' OS

EMC acquired Isilon two years ago to fill a void among big data and scale-out NAS use cases that mainstream NAS products could not handle. Now Isilon is taking steps to become better suited to mainstream enterprise applications with the latest version of its OneFS operating system that works with all Isilon hardware platforms.

EMC is making its Isilon OneFS 7.0 operating system, code-named “Mavericks,” generally available Friday. Previewed at EMC World in May, OneFS 7.0 has data protection, performance, security and interoperability features more suited to mainstream NAS products than the traditional clustered NAS Isilon capabilities.

Isilon is used largely in media and entertainment, life sciences, oil and gas exploration, healthcare and other high-performance applications. Sam Grocott, VP of marketing for EMC Isilon, said the large capacity files used in those industries now increasingly show up in enterprises.

“Isilon has been used in a world of massive capacity and extreme I/O performance environments that can grow quickly,” Grocott said. “Now we’re seeing those types of data sets show up in enterprise data centers. For instance, we’ve seen much more rapid adoption of enterprise customers dealing with extremely large home directories. We’re seeing up to hundreds of terabytes for a home directory.”

EMC claims the new OneFS version increases single file system throughput by 25% over the former version and new caching capabilities reduce latency by up to 50%. OneFS 7.0 reduces latency by giving each storage node its own nonvolatile random access memory (NVRAM) with cache built in, mirroring writes to cache to other nodes’ caches via InfiniBand across clusters, and confirming the write after the mirror. Previous versions of OneFS would write data to disk after caching it before confirming the write was complete.

Data protection improvements include the ability to use an active snapshot as a writeable snapshot, so a snap no longer has to be copied into an active file system to replace a lost file. Copying the snap could require a lengthy wait in a big data environment. EMC also added one-click failover and fail back to Isilon’s SyncIQ replication software for disaster recovery.

New security features include compliance with SEC 17a-4 requirements for tamper-proof data protection, roles-based administration to prevent unauthorized change to files, and the creation of isolated storage pools with authentication zones.

“We’re not physically creating separate storage silos, but we are logically separating access and directories,” Grocott said of the authentication zones. “Service providers are big proponents of this.”

Interoperability improvements include a REST-based API for third-party vendors to write to, and support for VMware vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI) and vStorage APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA).

While casting Isilon as a more mainstream storage system, EMC is stopping short of pushing its iSCSI support for block storage. The midrange VNX platform is EMC’s main unified storage product, even though Isilon does support iSCSI.

“The way customers use our storage, it’s predominantly file today and will continue to be that way,” Grocott said. “We’re going to be focusing on file-based storage.”

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