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Panasas ponders iSCSI, looks to follow Isilon path

Now that Isilon is part of EMC, the new management team at Panasas is looking to fill a gap in the market for an independent clustered NAS vendor.

Panasas has concentrated on high performance computing (HPC), but is looking to change that. Faye Pairman, who became the Panasas CEO last April and has since added new chiefs of sales, engineering and marketing, said the vendor is looking to capitalize on pNFS and perhaps add iSCSI capabilities to become more of a commercial or enterprise play.

“I don’t see us sitting behind an Exchange server, but the lines between the commercial market and HPC is getting blurrier,” she said.

Panasas has talked about moving to the enterprise for years, but Pairman said the Isilon deal provides its best opportunity while shining a light on parallel NAS.

“[The $2.25 billion EMC-Isilon] deal places a value on scale-out NAS, and indicates a future market,” she said. “It highlights the fact that there’s a ton of unstructured data and we need a new type of file system to support that. It also highlights how hard it is to make that type of file system that works.”

Pairman said there are parallels between Panasas and Isilon, which both began shipping products in 2003. She said the major difference between the two was the markets they pursued. Isilon went after the rich media market more while Panasas concentrated on the energy and simulation markets.

“We tend to be big on performance, scale and next-gen types of standards,” she said. “They tend to be more practical – more usability features, things like that. Their architecture limits them from scaling like we can.”

Along with NetApp and EMC, Panasas was a driving force behind pNFS and Pairman said pNFS will eventually help Panasas broaden its feature set. “But we’re not trying to look like NetApp,” she said.

One of Isilon’s last major enhancements before the EMC deal was to join the multiprotocol storage parade by adding iSCSI capability for block storage. Pairman said block storage hasn’t been a big priority for Panasas in HPC markets, but it’s certainly under consideration.

“The parallel nature of the Panasas ActiveStor architecture is ideally suited for delivering high performance, scalable iSCSI block storage,” she said. “As Panasas starts to address enterprise and commercial market needs, block storage services would be a natural growth path for us.”

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