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Isilon Nitro all-flash dragster filer to hit the streets in 2017

Avere, Qumulo and Pure's FlashBlade facing pushy eager-beaver of a product

Dell EMC is launching the Isilon All-Flash system which is designed to handle extreme high-performance NAS workloads.

It is the culmination of the Isilon Nitro development revealed at EMC World earlier this year.

You start with a 4-node, 4U chassis with from 96TB to 924TB of capacity, 250,000 IOPS, and up to 15GB/sec of aggregated bandwidth

Grow this to more than 100 chassis, over 400 nodes and 92.4PB of capacity. That means 25 million IOPS and up to 1.5TB/sec of total aggregate bandwidth. There are several configurations that will be available.

This can be a pure Isilon AF cluster or the AF nodes can be added to existing Isilon clusters.

The 4-node starter chassis is a unified enclosure and not four single 1U enclosures stacked together.

We believe the 4U chassis contains 60 drives, and these are Samsung's 15.36TB 3D NAND TLC (3 bits/cell) SSDs, with an NVMe interface. An HD400 60-slot storage box was added to the Isilon range in February last year.

The Isilon AF supports NFS, SMB, HDFS, Object, NDMP, FTP, OpenStack Swift and more access protocols, says Dell EMC. It provides up to 80 per cent storage utilisation, and a single file system and volume in a 100-chassis cluster if you wish.

Deduplication (branded Isilon SmartDedupe) can reduce storage requirements by up to 30 per cent or more.

All OneFS OS enterprise features are supported.

Isilon AF offers role-based access control (RBAC); secure access zones; write-once read many (WORM) data protection; file system auditing; and data-at-rest encryption with self-encrypting drives (SEDs).

The kind of extreme NAS workloads Isilon engineers have in mind include extreme NAS performance - including 4K streaming of data, genomic sequencing, electronic design automation and near real-time analytics with Big Data analytics vendors such as Hortonworks, Cloudera, Pivotal, IBM and Splunk.

Dell EMC is probably fed up with Avere parking its FXT filer accelerator tanks on its lawn, and visibly demonstrating the inadequacy of the current SAS and SATA disk drive systems for high-end workloads such as SFX creation and rendering.

Positioning with previous high-end S-Series

How does it relate to the S-Series Isilon nodes, the previous highest-performing nodes? The S210 was announced in February 2015 and could have 7.2TB, 14.4TB per 21.6TB nodes in a cluster, with a maximum capacity of 3.11PB across 144 nodes. The full cluster delivered 3.75 million IOPS, so 26,000 IOPS per node.

Now EMC says the S210 starts with a 16TB 3-node cluster and scales out to 144 nodes, past 4PB, and delivers 3 million IOPS. It is obviously a far slower and less dense performer than the Isilon AF.

Isilon AF vs Qumulo and Pure's FlashBlade

Startup Qumulo uses helium-filled disk drives in its nodes, which are based on HPE hardware and gave a hybrid flash/disk design. The 4U QC208 has 2.6TB flash and 208TB of disk. A four-node QC260 cluster has 1.04 PB of raw capacity using 10TB drives.

We think Qumulo systems will be outperformed, and there is little difference in storage density between Qumulo's 1.04PB in 4U versus Isilon AF's 924TB. There should though, be a vast difference in cost, with the Isilon being much more expensive.

Pure's coming FlashBlade system will be compared to this flashy Isilon. A 4U system will have 15GB/sec of bandwidth, 533TB of raw capacity - less than the Isilon AF's 924TB - and this uses proprietary flash cards and not commodity SSDs. We can bank on both Pure and Dell EMC competitive analysts burning the midnight oil to produce reports extolling their system's advantages and the other's weaknesses.

Isilon All-Flash scale-out NAS storage is available for pre-order now and will be generally available in 2017, possibly in February, along with new versions of OneFS that will be a free upgrade to all existing customers. We have no word on price. ®

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