Now that I am a recent Isilon Certified Storage Professional I am frequently asked: “So what is it?”, “Is it easy?”, “What does it do?”, “Is it right for me?”
So what is it?
Isilon is a cluster-based storage array that is based off of industry standard hardware, highly modified FreeBSD, and can scale to a massive 15PB’s in a single filesystem using it’s OneFS filesystem.
Data Protection is formed using mathematical algorithms instead of using traditional RAID 5, etc etc. When a file is written it is spread across all nodes using parity calculated by which level you set the whole or parts of the cluster to using a Reed Solomon error correction coding.
What does that mean to you Mr. Storage Admin? Well it means you are spending less time carving out luns and more time looking like a hero to your managers.
On the backend, the Isilon Cluster communicates with each node using a high speed infiniband network. This network connects storage CPU / DISK and backend networks causing the Isilon cluster to act as one unit.
Is it Easy? and What does it Do?
Storage upgrades are pretty darn easy. Pop a node in, connect it up to the network, power it on and in the console you have the option to join it to an existing cluster. No re-configuring of disks, no busting out a floor tile rolling another array into production and more importantly no late-night migrations of data when you would rather be at home watching Qui-Gon Jinn battle with his mystical green lightsaber. (Ok, maybe not that last part, but we all have something better to be doing that Robocopies at 4am.)
Networking is kinda easy. Isilon supports NFS/CIFS/iSCSI/FTP/WebDAV. If you have a single subnet to hook things up into it works as designed and from the factory it is pretty much wide open to NFS and CIFS sharing to the whole filesystem. I highly recommend locking that down before putting it into production. You don’t want to show some rogue user on your network a fileshare that could potentially be as large as 15 Petabytes. Even my MP3 collection isn’t that large but just imagine the implications. Good thing is it accepts most standard authentication protocols (Active Directory, LDAP, NIS, etc).
You’ll want to probably setup quotas, hard quotas, soft quotas, etc…yep Isilon does that.
You’ll probably want to setup snapshots, etc…yep Isilon does that (It even works with the previous versions tab on Windows shares so users can self-service restore their files if they need too).
Replication it does…to another Isilon. While replication is pretty cool (kinda snapshot based, etc). the thing that is pretty weak now in my opinion is the method of trying to fail over and fail back. It is not as elegant at all like Celerra/VNX. I’m sure someone is working on this because, once again you don’t want to be trying to figure out how to fallback 15PB’s of data at 4am by using a command line.
Also, Isilon runs it’s own little DNS-Like server in the backend that takes client requests using DNS forwarding. It is kinda a poor-man’s load balancer of sorts but it is very smart and can load balance clients across multiple network links. So smart, that Isilon calls it “SmartConnect”. I could go on for a while on how this works but basically it let’s clients connect pretty much to any node in the cluster. You could see how this would be pretty cool if you have 20 nodes with 20+ 10 Gig-E interfaces on it.
Is it right for me?
Oh yes. Of course! If you are a big data shop that thrives on large media files, pictures, videos, etc… Isilon excels at that. If you are into educational research, and need to have someplace to put everything, Isilon excels at that. If you are looking for a powerhouse of a NAS that basically can take as much networking power you can throw at it, Isilon is great at that too. Or if you want to start out a little small and grow as your data grows without ever having to do another forklift upgrade…isilon is really cool too.
So what do you think Sangeek?
I have a Virtual Isilon Cluster setup in my home lab. It is very nice. I’ve also done a handful of installations now and it really is good. In the next coming weeks I’ll be attempting to do a few videos of my demonstrating the interface in the Lab.
Until next time,