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Isilon boosts performance of clustered IQ NAS

Isilon is getting ready to play with EMC, HP and NetApp with a new accelerator node and faster performing software for its IQ NAS clusters.

Isilon Systems Inc. is gearing for new competition from major vendors by boosting the performance of its IQ NAS clusters through a software update and the introduction of a new accelerator node.

Isilon today added support for symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) for its OneFS clustered file system software. Last January, Isilon upgraded its storage nodes with the X Series that run on multicore processors, but OneFS was not yet multithreaded to take advantage of additional cores.

With SMP support, OneFS 5.0 will engage all the processing power of Isilon's new systems. The new performance benchmarks for Isilon are 210 MBps per node and up to 20 GBps for a fully populated cluster. The OneFS update will be free to existing users and included in all new systems.

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On the hardware side, Isilon is bringing out an Accelerator-x Node based on the same multicore CPUs. Isilon claims the new accelerator node can offer 400 MBps single-stream throughput, concurrent throughput of 700 MBps and up to 26,000 Spec SFS IOPS. The nodes will also support 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections to hosts and can be deployed with either 8 GB or 32 GB of cache, depending on whether the customer is looking for raw throughput (smaller cache) or high IOPS (larger version). The nodes will be priced between $30,000 and $50,000, depending on configuration.

Isilon assists Turner's NBA deal

Turner Studios has already tested the faster system. Turner has 600 TB of Isilon hardware deployed to support "off-channel" production projects, including a partnership with the NBA to offer NBA TV through iTunes and Xbox. NBA TV's footage is already being edited directly on the Isilon cluster using the X Series storage nodes. The Accelerator-x nodes are in a test cluster Turner is preparing for 2K HD video streaming services.

Turner Studios director of technical operations and digital media Ken Brady said he's happy to get 10 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. "It will be our first chance to open up the true bandwidth of the system," he said. Brady also said OneFS 5.0 comes with reporting and monitoring improvements, moving features, such as usage reporting, from a command line interface to a GUI.

Turner also uses Isilon's SyncIQ and MigrationIQ software to migrate data to archival nodes for storage, but Brady said he'd like to see Isilon offer that capability with third-party storage vendors whose offerings may be cheaper and denser than Isilon's nodes. According to an Isilon spokesperson, there are currently no plans for such an offering, "though we may consider this in the future."

A new market ahead

The upgrade comes as EMC and Hewlett-Packard prepare to enter the clustered NAS space, and NetApp inches closer to integrating its OnTap GX clustered NAS operating system with its base OnTap 7G operating system. NetApp has been Isilon's main competitor, and Isilon senior director of product management Sam Grocott said when his company loses a deals, it's generally because of lower pricing by an incumbent vendor. "NetApp has done whatever they can not to let a deal go to Isilon," Grocott said.

But while Isilon is small and has had some missteps and a CEO change since going public in 2007, Data Mobility Group analyst Robin Harris said at least Isilon has a proven shipping product. "Whether or not those other vendors already have product in users' shops, it's going to take a while for their new products to prove themselves," he said. "I still don't think some of them will be enterprise-ready from day one, and Isilon has the advantage of being out in the market already. These announcements will help, and I'm sure in the process of developing them, they discovered even more things they can do to keep increasing performance."

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