Converging Big Data and The Enterprise with EMC Isilon

Experimenting with and gaining insight from Big Data first and foremost requires collecting massive amounts of unstructured, file-based data.  However, without efficient storage, IT will expire these growing mounds of Big Data. Fortunately, Isilon OneFS is an intelligent operating system for scale-out NAS storage, designed to match data sets with the appropriate tier of storage based on business value to lower the total cost of Big Data.  Not only that, the release of OneFS 7.0 scales to over 15PBs, delivering a 25% increase in single file system throughput.

As with any product release, there are so many new features to digest and understand that some go unnoticed.  Fortunately, Nick Kirsch, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at EMC Isilon, summarizes some of the key features of Isilon OneFS 7.0 and why they are incredibly important to drive Big Data applications.

1) You have been at Isilon for 10 years focusing on bringing innovative, high quality products to market. What keeps you here?

First and foremost, I love the technology – Isilon is disrupting and dramatically improving the storage landscape at a time when the pace of technology is accelerating.  Second, Isilon and now EMC have been tremendous environments to grow as an individual.  I joined as an engineer, learned about business priorities in product management, and now have the pleasure and good fortune to set strategy as the CTO.  Finally, I can’t help but feel like we’re just getting started. The majority of the opportunities for improvement and change lie in front, rather than behind.  Bottom line – I’m excited.

2) You have been font and center in this shift from traditional scale-up NAS to scale out NAS? How is Isilon leading the scale-out NAS market with OneFS 7.0?

What has set us apart is our commitment to bring scale-out NAS to the enterprise data center. We have always built our product with enterprise features in mind such as security, replication, back up and recovery, and more.  We have always believed that enterprises were going to face the same storage growth challenges as leading edge technology companies that drove the original need for highly scalable and efficient storage.

With OneFS 7.0, scale-out has firmly entered the mainstream – and what makes that so exciting is now we can double-down on innovation in the storage space.

3) Great segway to my next question! Isilon scale-out NAS has been widely adopted by organizations that need to manage very large files in a high throughput environment such applications in Media and Entertainment, Oil and Gas, and Life Sciences. For mainstream enterprises or data centers outside of these industries, scale out NAS is a fairly new concept. In a few sentences, what is the value proposition for replacing scale-up storage architectures in an enterprise data center with Isilon?

There are three specific workloads or applications that I see will drive enterprises to replace current storage architectures with scale-out NAS:  technical computing, collaboration, and archive, or more simply, the high-speed creation, human interaction, and long-term retention of information.

The first workload is what I like to call “technical computing” – a workload that not only spans the specific verticals you mentioned but also Fortune 500 companies across all industries. All of these companies need high performance, high capacity storage to drive innovation for both discovery and creation – such as analytics for fraud detection in financial services or computational fluid dynamics for testing models in manufacturing.

The second workload is around basic collaboration: home directories, sync and share, and project shares; the daily interactions of documents and multi-media that knowledge workers use to create value and communicate in their organization.

The third workload is archiving.  Archiving workloads are often referred to as secondary storage or industry-specific titles such as PACS in Healthcare or Records Storage in Financial Services.  It is any use case that requires retention of files for long periods of time either for future business value or regulatory compliance.  Given the tremendous growth and desire for near-inifite retention, a scale-out solution is absolutely required to be cost effective and easy to manage. In many cases, an enterprise organization will achieve leverage and accelerate collaboration by combining these workloads onto a single, scalable storage system such as Isilon.

4) Isilon is a key component of EMC’s Big Data strategy, especially through Isilon’s integration with Hadoop to provide a more reliable and manageable storage option for Hadoop deployments. What are the new Hadoop related OneFS 7.0 features?

HDFS is a native protocol inside of OneFS – the only such deep integration – as a result the Hadoop ecosystem immediately gains all of the benefits of OneFS 7.0 such as improved performance, easier data protection and stronger security.

5) What are the 3 key features of OneFS 7.0 and who in the organization should care?

The Chief Security Officer will appreciate the security features such as SEC-17a4 SmartLock for compliance.

End users will appreciate the improvements in performance as their applications will have an improved response time and faster runtime.

The storage administrator will rest easy at night, knowing that they are meeting SLAs through new data protection policies.

Interoperability features will appeal to many. The new integrations with VMware will improve the life of the storage administrator. The Platform API will appeal to architects and engineers who want to further automate OneFS.

6) You have been in the trenches working with customers to solve real business problems with storage technology. What specific features addressing customer issues are in the OneFS 7.0 release that you are most proud of and why?

Two things.

The first is auto provisioning of storage pools. Prior to 7.0, customers had to adjust data protection settings as the system scales. Now, the system automatically re-configures itself seamlessly without the customer having to think about how to keep the system safe.

The second is performance. Isilon was originally built for high throughput, concurrent access. After experiencing the manageability benefits of Isilon, our customers also demanded the same support for their diverse workloads. With this release 7.0, we have made this possible. I just spoke with a customer that saw a 6x reduction in latency for their mixed workload environment. This supports our overall goal of making scale out NAS the next generation enterprise storage solution.

7) Can you provide some anecdotes or feedback from OneFS 7.0 beta customers to validate Isilon’s value proposition?

We ran the largest and most successful beta programs with OneFS 7.0 with an overall positive experience for our customers:

  • 40 customers
  • 150 systems
  • 4 PBs of capacity
  • 40,000 hours of runtime
  • 9 industries
  • 5 countriesFor more information on Isilon OneFS 7.0, please visit

About the Author: Mona Patel