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Scale-out storage also increases storage system reliability, as the data is spread across multiple storage nodes in such a way that the removal of one or more nodes has little or no impact on overall storage manageability or performance. Contrast this with scale-up storage where redundancy in terms of controllers, fans, disks, and other components are required to prevent a failure in one component from taking down the entire storage system.
Software for scale-out storage architecture is designed to allow the non-disruptive addition of new storage nodes or replacement of storage nodes which suffer from planned or unplanned downtime.
ICI's Shepard, who's company works with EMC's Isilon scale-out storage line, said that customers files are continuing to grow. "They are asking for scale-out more than they are scale-up," he said. "Isilon allows us to provide for their requirements."
Chi's Knieriemen said his company works with Scale Computing, an Indianapolis-based developer of technology which offers multi-protocol scale-out storage technology.
"If customers are looking for something more performance-driven than capacity-driving, we point them to Scale," he said. "But this is still a niche market. We don't see a lot of activity from our customers. But it's a growing business."
Increasing Vendor Interest
Storage vendors have responded to the increased need for scale-out storage with several acquisitions in the last couple years.
EMC late last year acquired Isilon, a specialist in the development of scale-out NAS technology. Isilon first developed its scale-out NAS technology in 2001.
Sam Grocott, vice president of marketing at EMC Isilon, said scale-out NAS is already being adopted as the primary storage solution for big data, or data which scales to multiple petabytes of capacity and is created or collected, is stored, and is collaborative in real time.
"In the future, as big data continues to proliferate throughout the mainstream enterprise in the form of massive home directories, large-scale virtualization deployments, rapidly growing general-purpose file shares and more, scale-out NAS will increasingly become the primary NAS solution for the enterprise data center," Grocott said.
Scale-out NAS is also being driven by continued pressure to do more with less, and as corporate resources become strained, the increased performance and capacity from scale-out NAS, along with better automation and utilization, will make scale-out NAS the better choice for storage architectures, Grocott said.
NetApp, which early last year acquired scale-out storage developer Bycast, has made scale-out capabilities a core part of the Data ONTAP storage operating system it uses for its entire unified SAN-NAS storage line.
Dell early last year acquired Exanet, an Israel-based developer of scale-out technology which Dell has already started integrating into its other storage technologies starting with its EqualLogic iSCSI line.
Dell also offers a scale-out NAS appliance in its Compellent line based on the open source ZFS file system, as well as a new scale-out object storage platform. Also available is the Dell Storage File System, a scale-out and scale-up file system which Dell plans to integrate across its Compellent storage line.
HP's 2009 acquisition of software developer IBRIX gave it the technology behind its scale-out HP X9000 NAS offering. HP also offers scale-out technology in its HP P4000 LeftHand storage virtualization offering, as well as scale-out capabilities in its 3PAR line.
Sean Kinney, director of product marketing for HP storage, said about 50 percent of his company's midrange and enterprise customers currently use scale-out storage technology, and that that number is growing rapidly.