Isilon has launched the largest clustered network-attached storage (NAS) system in the world with a potential 2.3PB capacity if all 96 nodes have expansion cabinets attached.

This provides a single namespace and volume for files.

The IQ 12000 is made up of 12TB nodes, 2U rack units, each with 12 1TB Hitachi GST serial ATA (SATA) drives. Up to 96 nodes can be clustered together over Infiniband. Capacity per node has risen by over 30 percent. The previous top of the range IQ 9000 could have 12 750GB Seagate drives in 9TB node. Each IQ 12000 node can have an EX 12000 expansion cabinet, also with 12 1TB drives in it, connected by a serial-attached SCSI (SAS) link.

The IQ 9000 could scale to 1.6PB using an expansion cabinet attached to every node. The IQ 12000 is the industry's first clustered NAS system that can scale beyond 1.6PB.

It means thousands of servers can share millions of files from one central resource. At this level clustered file storage could start looking as capacious as SAN storage and cheaper. EMC's largest Symmetrix configuration can have 2,500 750GB disks providing a 1.875PB storage area network.

Isilon isn't majoring on the IQ 12000's maximum capacity. The company's senior marketing and communications director, Jay Wampold, said: "We made the decision to hold our single file system/single volume capacity messaging at 1.6PB. The main reason we held at 1.6PB is to support our broader messaging that, at 1.6PB, Isilon IQ is 100X the scalability of traditional SAN and NAS storage systems."

Regarding the Symmetrix maximum configuration he said: "The 1.8PB EMC SAN system is actually a combination of 100's of volumes and file systems, not a single file system and single volume as is the case with Isilon IQ. This is an important distinction and has a profound impact on scalability, performance, ease of use and associated costs."

In other words he is claiming that the EMC alternative is a lot more expensive and difficult to manage.

Wampold also said: "The benefit of a cluster using the IQ 12000/EX 12000 (over the IQ 9000) is that customers can achieve the same level of scalability with 25 percent fewer nodes (which is more economical than the IQ/EX 9000 configuration). Keep in mind, however, that the performance of this configuration will be lower as there are less nodes and therefore less processing power driving the performance of the system."

Each Isilon node has a processing resource and both performance and capacity scale as you add nodes to a cluster.

Isilon states that its products are positioned for an enterprise shift to virtualised data centres based upon clustered and virtualised storage twinned with virtualised servers. The Taneja Group's Steve Norall, a senior analyst, said: “We are witnessing the emergence of clustered architectures at both the server and storage level, driving a symbiotic relationship between clustered server computing and clustered storage. Today, clustered storage is making the leap with ... clustered applications into the heart of the data centre."

EMC's Celerra NAS can't grow to anything like 1.6PB. There is a forthcoming EMC HULK product which will be a clustered NAS and EMC is talking of a global repository capability in connection with it.

No pricing information was supplied.