Dell EMC Announces Isilon Update (with cameo from ECS)

Disclaimer: I recently attended Dell EMC World 2017.  My flights, accommodation and conference pass were paid for by Dell EMC via the Dell EMC Elect program. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.


The latest generation of Isilon (previewed at Dell EMC World in Austin) was announced today. It’s a modular, in-chassis, flexible platform capable of hosting a mix of all-flash, hybrid and archive nodes. The smaller nodes, with a single socket driving 15 or 20 drives (so they can granularly tune the socket:spindle ratio), come in a 4RU chassis. Each chassis can accommodate 4 “sub-nodes”. Dell EMC are claiming some big improvements over the previous generation of Isilon hardware, with 6X file IOPS, 11X throughput, and 2X the capacity. Density is in too, and you can have up to 80 drives in a single chassis (using SATA drives). Dell EMC notes that it’s NVMe ready, but the CPU power to drive that isn’t there just yet. At launch it supports up to 144 nodes (in 36 chassis) and they’re aiming to get to 400 later in the year. Interestingly, there are now dual modes of backend connectivity (InfiniBand and Ethernet) to accommodate this increased number of nodes.
From a compute perspective, you’ll see the following specs:

  • Intel Broadwell CPU (with optimised compute to drive ratios)
  • Up to 6TB cache per node (2 Flash cards)
  • No SPoF
  • Networking flexibility – Infiniband, 10GbE/40GbE

Nodes can borrow power from neighbours if required too.

Dell EMC tell me this provides the following benefits:

  • 4:1 reduction in RU
  • Optimised IOPS and throughput
  • Future-proof, enduring design – snap in next-gen CPUs, networks
  • New levels of modular, hot-swappable serviceability

From a storage perspective, you’ll see a range of configurations:

  • From 72TB to 924TB in 4RU
  • 5 drive sleds per node. 3-6 drives per sled.
  • Front aisle, hot swap sleds and drives
  • Media flexibility: Flash, SAS and SATA media

Dell EMC tell me this provides the following benefits:

  • Start small and scale
  • Breakthrough density
  • Simplified serviceability and upgrades
  • Future-proof storage

Other Benefits?

Well, you get access to OneFS 8.1. You also get OPEX reduction by occupying a lot less space in the DC, and having the ability to host a lot more diversity of workloads. Dell EMC are also claiming this release provides unmatched resilience, availability, and security.

Scale? They’ve got that too.

From a capacity standpoint, you can start as small as 72TB (in one chassis) and expand that to over 33PB in a single volume and file system. In terms of performance, Dell EMC are telling me they’re getting up to 250K IOPs, 15GB/s, which scales to 9M IOPs, 540GB/s (aggregate throughput). Your mileage might vary, of course.


Speeds and Feeds

So what do the new models look like? You can guess, but I’ll say it anyway. F nodes are all flash, H nodes are hybrid, and A nodes are archive nodes.

F800 (All Flash)

  • 1.6TB, 3.2TB and 15.4TB Flash
  • 60 drives, up to 924TB per chassis
  • 250K IOPs per chassis
  • 15GB/s throughput

H600 (Hybrid)

  • 600GB and 1.2TB SAS drives
  • 120 drives and up to 144TB per chassis
  • 117K IOPs per chassis

H500, H400 (Hybrid)

  • 2/4/8TB SATA drives
  • 60 drives per chassis
  • Up to 480TB per chassis

A200 (Archive)

  • 2/4/8TB SATA drives
  • 60 drives per chassis
  • Up to 480TB per chassis

A2000 (Archive)

  • 10TB SATA drives
  • 80 drives per chassis
  • 800TB per chassis


“No node left behind”

One of the great things about Isilon is that you can seamlessly add “Next Gen” nodes to existing clusters. You’ve been able to do this with Isilon clusters for a very long time, obviously, and it’s nice to see Dell EMC maintain that capability. The benefits of this approach are that you can:

  • Beef up your existing Isilon clusters with Isilon all flash nodes; and
  • Consolidate your DC footprint by retiring older nodes.



OneFS has always been pretty cool and it’s now “optimised [for the] performance benefits of flash – without compromising enterprise features”. According to Dell EMC, flash wear is “yesterday’s problem”, and the F800 can sustain more writes per day than its total capacity every day for over 5 years before approaching limits. OneFS is now designed to go “From Edge to Core to Cloud” with IsilonSD Edge, the Next Generation Core and Cloud (with CloudPools -> AWS, Azure, Virtustream).


IsilonSD Edge

IsilonSD Edge has some new and improved features now too:

  • VMware ESXi Hypervisor
  • Full vCenter integration
  • Scale up to 36TB
  • Single server deployment
  • Back end SAN: ScaleIO, VSAN and VxRAIL
  • Dell PowerEdge 14G Support



Dell EMC also talked about their vision for ECS.Next, coming in the next year.

  • Data streaming
  • Enterprise Hardening
  • Certifications
  • Compliance
  • Economics
  • Hybrid Cloud

Big bets?

  • Hybrid Cloud
  • Batch and real-time analytics and stream processing
  • Massive scale @ low cost with new enterprise capabilities


Hybrid Cloud

Dell EMC are launching a ECS Dedicated Cloud (ECS DC) Service. This is on-demand ECS storage, managed by Dell EMC and running on dedicated, single-tenant servers hosted in a Virtustream DC. It’s available in hybrid and fully hosted multi-site configurations.

So what’s in the box?

You get some dedicated infrastructure

  • Customer owned ECS rack
  • Dedicated network / firewall / load balancer

You also get 24×7 support of hosted sites from a professional DevOps team

  • Strong expertise in operating ECS
  • Proactive monitoring and fast response

As well as broad Geo coverage

  • 5 DCs available across US (Las Vegas, Virginia) and Europe (France, London, Netherlands)
  • Coming to APJ by end of 2017

It will run on a subscription model, with a 1 year or 3 year contract available.


Project Nautilus

The team also took us through “Project Nautilus”, a batch and real-time analytics and stream processing solution.

Streaming storage and analytics engine

  • Scale to manage 1000s of high-volume IoT data sources
  • Eliminate real-time and batch analytics silos
  • Tier inactive data seamlessly and cost effectively

I hope to cover more on this later. They’re also working on certifications in terms of Hadoop and Centera migrations too (!). I’m definitely interested in the Centera story.



I’ve been a fan of Isilon for some time. It does what it promises on the tin and does it well. The Nitro announcement last year left a few of us scratching our heads (myself included), but I’m on board with a number of the benefits from adopting this approach. Some people are just going to want to consume things in a certain way (VMAX AF is a good example of this), and Dell EMC have been pretty good at glomming onto those market opportunities. And, of course, in much the same way as we’re no longer running SCSI disks everywhere, Flash does seem to be the medium of the future. I’m looking forward to seeing ECS progress as well, given the large numbers of scale-out, object-based storage solutions on the market today. If you’d like to read more about the new Isilon platform, head over to Dell EMC’s blog to check it out.