With so many storage options in the market today, what sets one apart from another?  Like many other technologies, storage is becoming more commoditized and the differentiations are hard to find.  It seems like the storage companies are leapfrogging one another at a slower rate than ever.  As soon as one comes up with an innovative design or piece of functionality the rest quickly assimilate their version and the playing field stays somewhat even.  Isilon, however, stands apart from the pack.  Once a fit for only organizations with massive streaming media requirements, it has been morphed into a comprehensive NAS platform for the masses.  If it is no more than a network storage appliance, what sets it apart you ask?  Read on.

In November of 2010, EMC purchased Isilon to bolster an already impressive storage lineup.  Unlike many other NAS products, Isilon provides enormous scalability and performance in a single volume.  Petabytes of unstructured data can be combined into a single namespace allowing for simplified management of file-based resources.  Isilon’s efficiencies come from the combination of its node-based design, OneFS operation environment, low-latency back-end, and highly available data protection.  Each node in the Isilon architecture is an independent server running OneFS (a highly-modified FreeBSD derivative) that is connected to the rest via Infiniband which has significantly less latency than traditional Ethernet.  This fast, private network provides the backbone for a unified grid that can be scaled seamlessly to provide greater capacity, performance and throughput.  Each node contributes CPU, memory and disk to the cluster enhancing performance without complex raid group and LUN management.  Different node types can be added to provide capacity, disk performance and accelerated throughput based on business requirements.  OneFS combines these features by tracking where files are stored in the cluster, balancing space utilization among nodes, and moving data based on administratively defined policies.

The Isilon cluster can be expanded on the fly (that is, during production), without performance impact or downtime, can your NAS do that?

To add to the existing cadre of protection and monitoring functionality, the recent release of OneFS 7 (Nov. 2012) provided major enhancements that make it ideal for mid-market and enterprise NAS customers.  The addition of features that improve storage provisioning for home directories, archiving tools and virtualization enhancements make the product ideal for companies looking to consolidate all file-based storage into a single easy to use platform.  NFS and iSCSI options provide a scalable and highly-available datastore option for VMware vSphere customers including enhancements for integration of vCenter to enable VMware HA, DRS, vMotion, Storage vMotion and VADP.

So whether you are storing massive media files, user shares or virtual machines, EMC Isilon will provide the fastest, most scalable and easiest to use NAS on the planet.  It will be some time before the competition catches up.