Qumulo: What the scale-out NAS market has been waiting for

EMC stops getting things all its own way


StorageBod One of the things I have been lamenting for some time with many vendors is that there's been a lack of truly credible alternatives to EMC’s Isilon product in the scale-out NAS space.

There are some technologies out there that could compete, but they just seem to fall/fail at the last hurdle. There are also technologies packaged to look like scale-out, but which are actually cludges and general hotch-potches.

So EMC has pretty much had it its own way in this space and it knows it. But yesterday, finally, a company came out of stealth to announce a product that might finally be the alternative to Isilon that I and others have been looking for.

That company is Qumulo, and it claims to have developed the first data-aware scale-out NAS. To be honest, that first bit (data-aware) sounds a bit like marketing fluff. But scale-out NAS certainly hits the spot.

Why would Qumulo be any more interesting than the other attempts in the space? Well, it's based out of Seattle and was founded by a bunch of ex-Isilon folks, so it has credibility. I think it understands this has to be the core of any scale-out product – it has to be designed that way from the start.

I also think that it understands that any scale-out system needs to be easy to manage. The command and control options need to be robust and simple. Many storage administrators love Isilon because it is simple to manage, but there are still things that it doesn’t do so well: ACL management is a particular bugbear of many, especially those of us who have to work in mixed NFS/SMB environments (OSX/Windows/Linux).

If we go to the marketing tag-line, data-aware, this seems to be somewhat equivalent to the Insight-IQ offering from Isilon, but baked into the core product set.

I have mentioned here and also to the Isilon guys that I believe Insight-IQ should be free and a standard offering. Generally, by the time a customer needs access to Insight-IQ, it’s because there’s already a problem open with support.

However, if I start to think about my environment, when we are dealing with complex workflows for a particular asset it would be useful to follow that asset: see what systems touch it, where the bottlenecks are and perhaps where the asset lives. It might not be that the storage is the problem, but it is the one common environment for an asset.

So I am prepared to be convinced that data-aware is more than marketing. It needs be properly useful and simple for me to produce meaningful reports, however.

Qumulo has made the sensible decision that at day one, a customer has the option of deploying on their own commodity hardware or purchasing an appliance from Qumulo.

I’ll have to see the costs and build our own TCO model, so let’s hope that for once it will actually be more cost-effective to use my own commodity hardware and not have to pay some opt-out tax that makes it more expensive.

It makes a change to see a product that meets a need today. I know plenty of people who will be genuinely interested in seeing a true competitor to EMC Isilon.

I imagine even the guys still at Isilon are interested, as it pushes them on as well. ®


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