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Isilon adds entry-level clustered NAS, drops pricing

Jo Maitland, News Director

Isilon Systems Inc. has introduced a smaller model of its clustered network attached storage (NAS) system, at half the price of the original product to attract more "budget constrained" customers,

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the company hopes.

The IQ 200, shipping today, goes for $39,000 list price, compared with $70,000 for the enterprise version. It comes as a three-node cluster, each node being 1U in size and scales from 6 terabytes (TB) to a maximum of 48 TB. It runs the same OneFS operating system as the enterprise model, meaning that data can be shared between them. However, it's not possible to build them together into one system.

"We've made it a no-brainer for enterprises to try clustered storage," said Brett Goodwin, vice president of market and business development at Isilon.

The IQ 200 runs the same applications, including SnapshotIQ, SyncIQ (asynchronous) replication and SmartConnect (load balancing) as the enterprise product, although users cannot scale performance and capacity nodes separately with this system, which can be done at the high end. Isilon has cut the pricing of these applications by about a third for the IQ 200.

The company claims about 50 have been installed to date.

AJ Javan, head of IT at Crossroads Films in New York just deployed the IQ 200 to move files from one Avid Technology Inc. editing room to another to free up time on production systems. "We want more time in the Avid room actually editing film instead of moving files … if we're not editing, we are losing money," he said.

Crossroads looked at Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) during its evaluation process but found its products to be too expensive and "they are not a clustered storage system," Javan added. The clustered NAS offering appealed to them as the company didn't want to make the leap to Fibre Channel. "Ten Gig [GigE] is going to be affordable very soon, and we're already wired for it," Javan said.

Similarly, Geoff Froh, technical manager at Densho, a nonprofit that's archivng the oral histories of Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, was looking for an affordable storage product that ruled out Fibre Channel. Densho had various storage efforts on the go, including some DAS and Snap appliances from Adaptec Inc. But they were constantly moving around directories in an effort to free up space, and it became unmanageable.

The IQ 200 let Densho store roughly 15,000 photographs plus 4 TB of video footage on a single three-node cluster. Densho looked at products from EMC Corp., NetApp and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), but none met the price range.

"The GigE back end meant we didn't have to buy another switch to put this gear into our office," Froh said.

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst with the Taneja Group, noted that Isilon is not trying to get into the small business market with the IQ 200, but to service its big accounts with a smaller product for branch offices. The key advantage with Isilon, he believes, is that it runs the same software across its product line. "Others run a crippled version of the software or have different software for the high end and low end," he said.

Taneja foresees Isilon moving into additional vertical markets beyond its traditional broadcast and media business. "They will have to modify their file system, which is designed for large files, which is why it's done well in the media industry, but for the CADCAM market, for example, we're talking about thousands of small files and the access patterns are very different." Financial services companies have very specific requirements on the NAS side and are used to sophisticated software, Taneja added. Isilon could also look at building a block-based system to support iSCSI. "It's just engineering, it'll be interesting to see how they broaden their market," he said.

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