Isilon has increased the size of its clustered network-attached storage (NAS) product to 1.6 petabytes with its new IQ9000 product, which should also use disks more efficiently, through thin provisioning and smart quota management.

Isilon clusters NAS servers (nodes) together using two redundant Infiniband links.

The new IQ9000 increases node capacity to 9TB, a third more than the previous range-topping IQ6000, by using twelve Seagate 750GB serial ATA (SATA) drives. Ninety six of these nodes can be joined together in a single cluster. Each IQ9000 can have an additional 9TB in a disk-only EX9000 expansion node connected by a serial-attached SCSI (SAS) link.

The cluster can grow, either by adding expansion cabinets to existing nodes, or new nodes to the cluster, which Isilon calls 'pay as you grow' scalability. There is a centralised point of management for the cluster.

There is a single file system, implemented by the OneFS 4.7 operating system, across the cluster and its address space capacity is practically unlimited, having space in it for 66,000 nodes. It can have 1.6PB allocated to a single volume if customers wish. Isilon's Sam Grocott, a senior director in product management, said: "This is '100 times the volume size of traditional NAS; 16TB."

He said that the capacity hike is needed because customers in Isilon's two main markets, nearline storage and Web 2.0 applications, are experiencing dramatic data growth and need to serve files very quickly and reliably.

Isilon has added a new management application, Smart Quotas, to manage the capacity allocation per user, with quotas being set at directory, sub-directory, user and group levels if needed. It also includes thin provisioning, notionally allocating all the storage that is needed to a user or application over a period of time, but only implementing what is required for data in the short term, is also present.

It drives up disk utilisation, reducing the amount of empty space, and enables customers to defer disk purchases until the space is actually needed.

Isilon has four other software applications for its IQ range:

  • SnapshotIQ working at file, directory or volume level,
  • SmartConnect which balances the workload across a cluster,
  • MigrationIQ which moves files between clusters forming two different tiers of storage based on file usage patterns, and
  • SyncIQ for disaster recovery with replication of cluster content to another cluster.

There is no de-duplication application. Grocott said: "De-duplication is done by partners in front of or behind Isilon products, not in terms of online access." In other words, de-duplication carried out directly on Isilon's nodes would weaken performance too much.

Asked about 1TB disk drives Grocott said their arrival didn't mean Isilon will introduce a third tier of storage for tape-like archive data, because: "The Isilon message is about speed and capacity. Tape won't go away. Isilon will stick to its knitting."

With 1TB drives we might envisage a further increase in node capacity, to 12TB, with a 96-node cluster then capable of storing over 2PB.

According to a person familiar with the situation, the US Government is said to be using Isilon systems to store video surveillance data.

The IQ9000 is priced between $2,500 to $4,000 per terabyte (about £1,250 - 2,000 at standard conversion rates). Thin provisioning costs $1,450 per node (about £700).