EMC Jumps Into Software-Defined Storage With New Isilon NAS Products

EMC Tuesday launched new software products for its Isilon scale-out NAS platform, along with enhancements to the Isilon OneFS operating system in what it is calling its "data lake 2.0 strategy," but the move is drawing criticism from some partners who say the effort misses the mark.

Data lakes allow customers to store and manage unstructured data in large repositories. Isilon's new scale-out NAS offerings represent Isilon's first foray into the software-defined, cloud storage world, and the new capabilities offer partners opportunities to make themselves more valuable to customers, Sam Grocott, senior vice president in EMC's emerging technologies division, told CRN.

"Partners can go to customers and say the experience you've had in large scale, you can now deploy in bite size chunks," Grocott said. "Customers are looking to the partner community to help them understand it. You can't always have all your data on prem, you have to offer a cloud strategy. Partners can help guide them. It extends the value, it extends the trust."

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"Customers want choice, they have a software-defined strategy, but they're saying, 'help me.' They need to manage their business needs and still be able to address large, unstructured data," Grocott said. "We haven't been able to address the edge until this."

The software products EMC is releasing are IsilonSD Edge and CloudPools, which will be available along with the new version of OneFS in 2016.

IsilonSD Edge is a virtual NAS product that runs on x86 hardware and can scale to six nodes to store 36 TB of data. IsilonSD Edge supports VMware's ESX hypervisor and can be integrated with VMware vCenter for management.

CloudPools allows customers to migrate data from Isilon arrays to public and private clouds without using a gateway. It supports Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Virtustream public clouds, the company said.
The enhanced Isilon OneFS operating system now includes nondisruptive upgrade and rollback capabilities for high availability.

Still, the rollout falls flat for Arnold Bennett, U.S. regional sales director at EMC partner Northern, who argues that customers only want to grow valuable core business data, "not produce a never ending lake of data."
"If I was a customer, I would be acutely aware that EMC has never given any credence to any management platform that drastically or even subtly reducing the data footprint," Bennett told CRN in an email. "To use the term 'manage unstructured data' means the ability to move it around and grow an even wider, deeper lake. That is counter-intuitive to what customers want."

"Isilon's biggest problem is their lack of partner involvement for data management," Bennett said. "To add complexity into the box is not what customers want. The box will become a commodity and if they really wanted to do right by their customers they should involve partners who are experts in the field and have software that allows customers this functionality regardless of the hardware platform."

In a statement to CRN, EMC said, ’The EMC Isilon data lake 2.0 approach creates opportunities for customers and partners to solve the growing challenge of unstructured data, in a simple and efficient way. Software-defined storage and hybrid cloud are critical to storage strategies going forward—and, through our ecosystem of partners, we will continue to deliver value in this area. We’re so enthused about these new Isilon software offerings that we invite all partners to try them through our free and frictionless downloads.’

Nick Cellentani, national team lead for storage and data protection at World Wide Technology, told CRN that while the concerns of skeptical partners are legitimate, WWT should be able to accelerate the growth of its Isilon business thanks to the simplicity of the additions to the data lake model.

"We've found new ways to drill into new penetration points because of our big data team. For us, it's about simplicity, and that's why our Isilon business is up 75 percent year-over-year," Cellentani said. "A lot of people want to talk about data lakes, and it's pretty powerful. It's just a pool of homogenous storage, and we call it a data lake."

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