Isilon's OneFS 6.0 includes new features called SmartPools and InsightIQ for managing and monitoring data across all of its NAS systems. Isilon's software upgrade follows a series of hardware upgrades over the past year or so, as it rolled out systems for transactional data and archiving in 2009 and solid-state drive (SSD) systems in February. The vendor's strategy is to broaden its NAS customer base from high-performance markets such as broadcasting and genomics to more traditional NAS applications.
SmartPools lets customers combine multiple Isilon IQ storage nodes into a single file system, volume and namespace. That gives users the ability to set up and manage a storage tier across different levels of hardware performance.
InsightIQ is deployed as a virtual appliance for VMware, and provides performance and file-system analytics based on data collected by OneFS and sent to InsightIQ via a REST-based API. The Web-based application can be accessed through a browser. Sam Grocott, Isilon's vice president of marketing, said InsightIQ can help identify network and performance bottlenecks, and analyze the growth of data sets to forecast performance needs.
"Normally when a file moves across volumes, a shortcut or link is left behind," Grocott said. "You have a lot of litter left behind over time as files move multiple times. With SmartPools, the file location never changes. It looks like you're accessing the file off the same location as you've always found it, no matter where it moves throughout the cluster."
Webtrends systems engineer Josh Wisely said he's been using InsightIQ since it was in alpha approximately a year ago and OneFS 6.0 since it entered beta a few months ago. Wisely is part of the Web analytics company's engineering systems team that manages research and development systems. He said he implemented Isilon storage approximately two years ago as his group began heavily using VMware. He finds Isilon effective for virtual machines because it lets him make changes quickly and add capacity easily.
He said SmartPools and InsightIQ are a big help in managing and optimizing data across several Isilon configurations, including IQ 12000X, IQ 6000x and IQ 5000S node types.
"Isilon's systems are easy to use, but the base product didn't have a lot of reporting built-in," he said. "InsightIQ lets me look at capacity and network I/O, but from a user's experience. It shows client latency, how long writes take on NFS or CIFS, and where the latency is coming from. It tells me if it's one node or client, or a systematic thing throughout the environment."
Wisely said SmartPools lets him act on the information provided by InsightIQ. "I can move data to a different type of hardware that is better suited for it," he said. "If a virtual machine needs more performance, I'll move it to a higher-performing node type."
SmartPools will make hardware upgrades easier because he can replace nodes in a cluster with different types of nodes without having to reconfigure any clusters or clients, Wisely said. "As far as my clients are concerned, it's still one big cluster," he noted.
He said SmartPools extends the benefits of the global namespace on Isilon's NAS. "Before, everything needed to be in the same pool as one big namespace," he said. "Now I can control what in that namespace gets stored where."
'One big storage array'
The UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI) uses SmartPools to manage three tiers of data in one file-system space, according to the lab's IT director David Hasson. He said LONI added Isilon IQ 72NL high-capacity near-line storage and IQ 10000X-SSD solid-state nodes last summer to its legacy Isilon IQ 9000 and IQ 3000 systems. He said SmartPools enabled the lab to justify the cost of the SSD systems because it could still use the less expensive storage in the same pool.
"We use SmartPools to have one big storage array," he said. "All compute nodes are in one file-system space; whatever node they happen to be mounted to just pulls the file off and moves it to any other node. Before, it had to be the same type of node." He said the purchase of SSDs "wouldn't have made nearly as much sense without [SmartPools]. We knew we could join it all later."
Rick Villars, vice president, storage systems and executive strategies at IDC, said Isilon's new features may appeal to customers who have optimized their server infrastructure through virtualization and are now trying to get a better handle on storage growth.
"On the storage side, people are still creating a lot more data and need better ways to handle it," he said. "It's critical for Isilon to bring StoragePools into its architecture, and in way where you don't have to go and buy a whole new architecture to get the addition."