EMC Isilon Support for 20PB Filesystems

Yesterday, EMC announced that Isilon clustered storage can now support a single filesystem up to 20PB in size.

When I read the announcement, my first reaction was “That’s a big deal.”  Then, as I read more and thought about it, my reaction changed to one of “No, actually, not such a big deal, really.”  An hour later, out of the blue it hit me, “Oh, wait — this is a HUGE deal after all.”

I’ll walk you through my thinking in each of the stages and let you decide for yourself.

This is a Big Deal

I don’t know about you, but I still have trouble wrapping my head around the concept of Petabytes — they’re just too big — they’re hard to think about.

Twenty of them in a single filesystem is a big deal all by itself.  I’ve got a few customers who have a legitimate business need to 20PB of storage (actually, some of my customers have a legitimate business need for more than 20PB…).  There are a lot of ways you can get 20PB of storage, but not a lot of ways to do it in a single filesystem (and despite what some folks will try to tell you, a single global namespace is not at all the same thing as a single filesystem…).

But Isilon gives you more than just 20PB in a single filesystem.  It’s a single enterprise-class scale-out storage system for that 20PB.  And it’s a system that’s so transparent and simple to manage that a single storage administrator could be responsible for every bit of that 20PB of capacity and not have it take up all of his work hours.

Like I said, it’s a big deal.

Or Not Such a Big Deal, Really…

So, for a geek like me, the first thing I think when I see something new is how did they make that work?

I wondered how the engineers had accomplished this increase in capacity.  What new technological innovation had been brought forth?

The answer is almost disappointingly simple: They’ve replaced the 3TB drives in the NL400 nodes with 4TB drives.

That’s it.  Nothing more.  It’s just bigger drives.

No, This is Actually a Huge Deal…

If you take a step back and look at the big picture it becomes obvious that’s it’s the simplicity that makes the announcement such a big deal.

First, it’s a clear validation of the Isilon architecture that such a small and simple change can have such a big effect.

Let’s look at what a difference this small change can have in the datacenter:

  • The 4TB drives mean that you can use NL400 nodes to fit 1.44PB of storage capacity in a single standard rack.
  • Need 1PB of capacity?  With the 4TB drives you can get it with seven NL400 nodes.  Using the 3TB drives you’d need ten.  You save not only space, but also the cost of power and cooling.
  • The 4TB drives allow you to max out an Isilon cluster  full of of NL400 nodes that will provide a total of 20PB of storage capacity in a single volume.  To a guy like me — who still remembers how impressed we were when we got our hands on our fist-ever 1GB drive — that’s just astounding.

Big Data is more than a trendy marketing phrase. It’s real, it’s here, and both the data and the systems required to support are going to keep getting bigger.

One thought on “EMC Isilon Support for 20PB Filesystems

  1. Pingback: EMC Announces Next-Generation VNX – Takes It Full Multicore | GeekFluent

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