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Isilon targets enterprise NAS with Backup Accelerator, N+2:1 parity

To bolster its enterprise features, Isilon Systems Inc. releases Backup Accelerator, upgrades its SyncIQ replication software and offers N+2:1 option for parity data protection.

As part of its push to make its clustered network-attached storage (NAS) systems more appealing to the enterprise, Isilon Systems Inc. today increased its data protection features with a Backup Accelerator node and increased software-based drive protection.

Sam Grocott, Isilon Systems' senior director of product management, said tape backup and replication are the top requests the vendor has received from enterprise customers. To address those requests, Isilon is adding a hardware node for caching Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP) backups to tape and upgrading its SyncIQ replication software.

The Backup Accelerator node, available immediately for $38,550, offloads the processing of backup jobs to a hardware node that comes with a four-port Fibre Channel (FC) card to plug into tape libraries. Isilon claims the node offers throughput of up to 500 MBps.

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The new node means customers don't have to use CPU cycles on the Isilon NAS heads to process backup jobs, which could grow overwhelming as more data is added. "This is an area where, frankly, as we see more and more deployments in the enterprise, being able to plug into a Fibre Channel tape infrastructure is an absolute core requirement," Grocott said.

With SyncIQ 2.5 replication software, Isilon Systems adds the ability to send only changed data to the target site instead of an entire file. Isilon is addressing another key issue for enterprise IT – security and access control – with new support for anti-virus software from McAfee Inc., Symantec Corp. and Trend Micro Inc., as well as native Microsoft Corp. Windows Active Directory support.

"This is the first part of a roadmap for native Windows integration," Grocott said. "We still use Samba for file sharing [via CIFS] today, but you will see more in coming releases."

Customers have a new option for parity data protection within Isilon clusters with support for a new parity scheme Isilon calls "N+2:1." The new scheme mimics RAID 6 – any two drives within the same node or any one node within the cluster can fail without data loss. Isilon's N+2 protection can protect against two drive or two node failures, but N+2:1 requires less overhead and increases the amount of usable capacity from 288 TB to 324 TB on a 10-node cluster.

Isilon clusters will offer new support for the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) for rudimentary reporting, though more advanced features such as reporting utilized vs. allocated storage will have to wait for future releases, Grocott said. The software updates are free for current customers.

Isilon, which traditionally has sold its scale-out network-attached storage to media and entertainment, gas and oil exploration, and high-performance computing (HPC) verticals, made its first serious move on the enterprise by rolling out transactional and archive systems in March. Isilon Systems is looking to get into the enterprise before chief rival NetApp can come out with the Ontap GX operating system, which so far has taken years for the enterprise NAS vendor to develop.

"I think Isilon has closed most of the major holes," wrote Terri McClure, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), in an email to "They still need synchronous remote replication – though not on the top of the priority list for a lot of NAS applications, there are some that will require it. And they still have not announced any solid-state drive [SSD] integration, which is starting to become a checklist item."

Noemi Greyzdorf, research manager, storage software at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC added, "Native Windows integration is important in the enterprise – it just simplifies management for admins."

Both analysts agreed there's no clear leader yet in the emerging market for enterprise scale-out NAS. "Everyone's gunning for NetApp because they're delinquent building out clustered scale-out systems," Greyzdorf said. "[Scale-out NAS] is not a must-have in the enterprise yet, but you're starting to see it in large enterprises. Folks are looking for ways to do simple upgrades."

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