Dell EMC Isilon – Cloudy With A Chance Of Scale Out

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 19.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. 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.

Dell EMC recently presented at Storage Field Day 19. You can see videos of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

It’s A Scaling Thing

Unbounded Scaling

One of the key features of the Isilon platform has been its scalability. OneFS automatically expands the filesystem across additional nodes. This scalability is impressive, and the platform has the ability to linearly scale both capacity and performance. It supports up to 252 nodes, petabytes of capacity and millions of file operations. My favourite thing about the scalability story, though, is that it’s non-disruptive. Dell EMC says it takes less than 60 seconds to add a node. That assumes you’ve done a bit of pre-work, but it’s a good story to tell. Even better, Isilon supports automated workload rebalancing – so your data is automatically redistributed to take advantage of new nodes when they’re added.

One Filesystem

They call it OneFS for a reason. Clients can read / write from any Isilon node, and client connections are distributed across cluster. Each file is automatically distributed across the cluster. This means that the larger the cluster, the better the efficiency and performance is. OneFS is also natively multi-protocol – clients can read / write same data over multiple protocols.

Always-on

There are some neat features in terms of resiliency too.

  • The cluster can sustain multiple failures with no impact – no impact for failures of up to 4 nodes or 4 drives in each pool
  • Non-disruptive tech refresh – non-disruptively add, remove or replace nodes in the cluster
  • No dedicated spare nodes or drives – better efficiency as no node or drive is unused

There is support for an ultra dense configuration: 4 nodes in 4U, offering up to 240TB raw per RU.

 

Comprehensive Enterprise Software

  • SmartDedupe and Compression – storage efficiency
  • SmartPools – Automated Tiering
  • CloudPools – Cloud tiering
  • SmartQuotas – Thin provisioning
  • SmartConnect – Connection rebalancing
  • SmartLock – Data integrity
  • SnapshotIQ – Rapid Restore
  • SyncIQ – Disaster Recovery

Three Approaches to Data Reduction

  1. Inline compression and deduplication
  2. Post-process deduplication
  3. Small file packing

Configurable tiering based on time

  • Policy based tiering at file level
  • Transparent to clients / apps

 

Other Cool Stuff

SmartConnect with NFS Failover

  • High Availability
  • No RTO or RPO

SnapshotIQ

  • Very fast file recovery
  • Low RTO and RPO

SyncIQ via LAN

  • Disk-based backup and business continuity
  • Medium RTO and RPO

SyncIQ via WAN

  • Offsite DR
  • Medium – high RTO and RPO

NDMP Backup

  • Backup to tape
  • FC backup accelerator
  • Higher RTO and RPO

Scalability

Key Features

  • Support for files up to 16TB in size
  • Increase of 4X over previous versions

Benefits

  • Support applications and workloads that typically deal with large files
  • Use Isilon as a destination or temporary staging area for backups and database

 

Isilon in the Cloud

All this Isilon stuff is good, but what if you want to leverage those features in a more cloud-friendly way? Dell EMC has you covered. There’s a good story with getting data to and from the major public cloud providers (in a limited amount of regions), and there’s also an interesting solution when it comes to running OneFS in the cloud itself.

[image courtesy of Dell EMC]

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

If you’re familiar with Isilon, a lot of what I’ve covered here wouldn’t be news, and would likely be a big part of the reason why you might even be an existing customer. But the OneFS in the public cloud stuff may come as a bit of a surprise. Why would you do it? Why would you pay over the odds to run appliance-like storage services when you could leverage native storage services from these cloud providers? Because the big public cloud providers expect you to have it all together, and run applications that can leverage existing public cloud concepts of availability and resiliency. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, and many enterprises find themselves lifting and shifting workloads to public clouds. OneFS gives those customers access to features that may not be available to them using the platform natively. These kinds of solutions can also be interesting in the verticals where Isilon has traditionally proven popular. Media and entertainment workloads, for example, often still rely on particular tools and workflows that aren’t necessarily optimised for public cloud. You might have a render job that you need to get done quickly, and the amount of compute available in the public cloud would make that a snap. So you need storage that integrates nicely with your render workflow. Suddenly these OneFS in X Cloud services are beginning to make sense.

It’s been interesting to watch the evolution of the traditional disk slingers in the last 5 years. I don’t think the public cloud has eaten their lunch by any means, but enterprises continue to change the way they approach the need for core infrastructure services, across all of the verticals. Isilon continues to do what it did in the first place – scale out NAS – very well. But Dell EMC has also realised that it needs to augment its approach in order to keep up with what the hyperscalers are up to. I don’t see on-premises Isilon going away any time soon, but I’m also keen to see how the product portfolio develops over the next few years. You can read some more on OneFS in Google Cloud here.

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