Dell Targets EMC Isilon With Higher Performance, Scalability NAS

Dell Tuesday began shipping a new version of the file system that provides unified file and block capabilities to its Compellent storage arrays, giving the company a higher performing scalable NAS to compete with the likes of EMC's Isilon.

Fluid File System version 3, or FluidFS v3, adds higher performance, scalable file (NAS) capabilities to the Dell Compellent FS8600 NAS appliance, said Mike Davis, director of marketing for file solutions at Dell, Round Rock, Texas.

"FluidFS v3 is a powerful scale-out system on par with Isilon," Davis said. "It's more advanced than the file systems provided by Hitachi Data Systems and NetApp."

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Davis might not be kidding, said Michael Tanenhaus, principal at Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider and Dell partner that worked with Dell on several beta tests of the technology.

"I had people beat the crap out of FluidFS v2 and the v3 beta side-by-side, and got great performance data," Tanenhaus said. "I had one customer developing eDiscovery who said he would rather use the FluidFS v3 beta than the v2 production unit he currently has. FluidFS v3 in beta tests performed 10 times faster than v2 even with dedupe and compression turned on, so the data set was also smaller."

Scott Winslow, president of Winslow Technology Group, a Boston-based solution provider and Dell partner, said his company sees EMC's Isilon as well as NetApp used by customers with large amounts of file data.

"Traditionally, Dell Compellent competes very well in the block-based storage market, Winslow said. "That was their strength. But Dell has now strengthened the file side of the offering. Three years ago, I would have said Dell can't compete against NetApp. Now it can."

FluidFS v3 stems from Dell's 2010 acquisition of Exanet, a developer of scale-out NAS technology, Davis said.

It differs from FluidFS v2, the first scalable NAS technology used in Dell Compellent, in several ways, he said.

FluidFS v3 allows up to 2 Petabytes of capacity in a single file system compared with the previous 1-Petabyte limitation, he said. "The next release will allow about 5 Petabytes," he said.

NEXT: New Storage Capabilities With Dell Compellent FluidFS v3

Dell's FluidFS v3 also for the first time includes deduplication and compression technology from Dell's 2010 acquisition of Ocarina Networks, Davis said.

"This is the first primary storage product from Dell with the Ocarina technology," he said. "It uses post-process deduplication technology, which allows customers to set policies such as automatically apply compression to files which are over 30 days old."

Dell also is adding new data protection capabilities in FluidFS v3 via new interfaces such as Network File System v4, which increases data security, and Server Message Block 2.1, which prioritizes data traffic.

Also new is more aggressive thin provisioning capabilities, as well as volume cloning, which allows a data set to be cloned for such purposes as test and development or to create thousands of look-alike virtual machines, he said.

It's nice to see Dell's acquisitions, including Ocarina and Exanet, come to fruition in the Dell Compellent FS8600, Winslow said.

"Being able to scale to a 2-Petabyte name space is important," he said. "One Petabyte is not enough for some of our customers. Some will be excited about this. Here in Boston, we're in the belly of the bioscience and life sciences research markets."

Dell has done an amazing job with FluidFS v3, Tanenhaus said.

"The new features have been needed," he said. "Dell has executed on this very well. Considering how stable the beta version has been, this is an awesome launch."

FluidFS v3, including the dedupe and compression functions, will be available free with all new Dell Compellent FS8600 controllers and for updates to existing controllers, Davis said.

"We're continuing the all-inclusive licensing model that Compellent has used for years," he said. "This lets customers try the features without the hassles of getting a license."