Isilon: Richly Featured for Your Enterprise

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In previous posts, I’ve discussed how scale-out storage needs to live up to its promise to scale out, in performance as well as capacity. Along with storage capacity and performance, enterprise-grade scale-out storage distinguishes itself with functionality. It’s a significant capital and resource investment, and the payback should be solving your storage problems, currently and as your needs grow.

Dell EMC Isilon is currently in the eighth generation of its OneFS software on its sixth-generation hardware platform. Since just 2014, customers have deployed over 100,000 Isilon nodes with more than 10 Exabytes of capacity. Over Isilon’s product lifetime, we have engineered a vast list of features that our customers depend on. By comparison, Pure FlashBlade provides little more than basic file services. Let’s take a look at some key differences.

Isilon was designed from the ground up to protect your data. This functionality includes snapshots, which allow quick access to read-only copies of older, changed file and directory versions. We’re proud of the power and flexibility of our snapshot implementation, but for network attached storage (NAS), snapshots have become table stakes, required for a “real” product. Pure FlashBlade is shipping without snapshot capabilities, leaving customers dependent on a promise that it will be available at the end of 2017.

Moving onto Disaster Recovery / High Availability (DR/HA) capabilities, Isilon-integrated SyncIQ goes beyond simple replication. File systems, directories and individual files can each be replicated at your desired intervals based on their business criticality.  Inactive data can be automatically remote archived to reclaim valuable capacity in your production system.

By comparison, Pure FlashBlade has no integrated replication at all, leaving it as the customer’s responsibility to handle externally. A separate, attached server, requiring extra support, runs file synchronization software like “rsync,” knowing nothing about file usage or ensuring that files aren’t changing in the midst of replication. Integrated replication, like SyncIQ, uses its privileged system knowledge to assure your data and replicas remain consistent.

Customers are enthusiastic about Isilon seamless tiered storage. This enables their data to be automatically and transparently migrated between high performance, economical archive and public or private cloud. This functionality allows Isilon clusters to be built from a mix of nodes of differing performance characteristics – speed and size – providing both high performance and cost-effective overall TCO. Pure FlashBlade offers no tiering at all, as their blades differ only in capacity. That works if your workload requires a separated flash silo, but most are more efficiently conducted as part of the enterprise.

The “N” in NAS stands for network, and a mix of standard network protocols are used by clients to talk to that storage. Given the varied nature of NAS workloads, supporting multiple data access protocols on the same storage platform is critical for enterprise customers.

Isilon supports Network File System (NFS) v3 and v4, along with Server Message Block (SMB). SMB is a very complex protocol to implement, with many versions and lots of special cases. Thanks to our own highly functional SMB protocol stack, Isilon supports SMBv2 and the newer, more performant and available, SMBv3. Isilon rich support for SMB also includes SmartConnect, providing automatic load balancing and failover of client connections across Isilon nodes.

Pure FlashBlade was introduced only supporting NFSv3, but lacking the ability to properly support NFS file locking, a notable deficiency for many workflows. Recently Pure is attempting to remediate these deficiencies by adding NFS Network Lock Manager support and basic support for legacy SMBv2.

Given the immensely long and deep list of Isilon features, especially security and compliance – so critically important these days – this posting could go on and on. If you listen to Pure Storage, this isn’t a features race. And we at Dell EMC strongly agree – when looking at highly functional scale-out storage, there’s only one choice: Isilon.

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