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Isilon makes grab at NAS performance crown

SPEC claims drowned out by bickering

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Isilon's claimed SPEC benchmark score has shown just how good Exanet systems are - says Isilon.

Isilon, which provides scale-out NAS clusters, has published the results of a Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) sfs2008 NFS benchmark for its IQ 5400S product. A 10-node 5400S cluster delivered 46,635 IOPS, with a corresponding overall response time of 1.91msec. The company says it is the first scale-out NAS supplier to publish a SPEC sfs2008 benchmark and has set a performance bar.

But both claims are being hotly disputed by a rival.

Exanet also provides clustered NAS systems, scaling to 1PB by adding nodes, and has published SPEC sfs2008 NFS benchmark results. In August 2008 its ExaStore 2008 Clustered NAS achieved 119,550 operations per second with an overall response time of 2.07 milliseconds, a world record. The Isilon system has not exceeded that.

Exanet benchmarked an 8-node ExaStore Clustered NAS System, based on ExaStore 2008 software, EX1500 NAS Servers, and DX12 storage arrays. It had 224GB of memory, and 592 disk drives with 64.5TB of capacity. The EX1500 servers, like the Isilon 5400S, use dual quad-core Xeon processors.

Isilon's 10-node cluster had 165GB of memory and 120 disk drives with a 48TB capacity. What this comes down to is that the 10-node Isilon cluster, with five times fewer drives and a third less capacity, delivered 39 per cent of the performance of an 8-node Exanet cluster with many more disks but greater capacity. It looks like spindles count, much more so than compute horsepower.

Sam Grocott, Isilon's senior director of product management, said: “(Isilon is) the first and only scale-out NAS system to publish the SPEC sfs2008 benchmark."

With Exanet having published its sfs2008 results last year and comfortably exceeding Isilon's sfs2008 performance this claim, and the performance bar one, both seem to be incorrect.

A person familiar with the situation said: "Absolutely not. Isilon is definitely not the first."

Nir Peleg, one of Exanet's founders, checked the Exanet and Isilon SPEC sfs2008 benchmark reports and confirmed the numbers above: "It seems to be all correct."

Asked if Isilon was wrong to claim to be the first scale-out NAS vendor to publish sfs2008 benchmark numbers and also wrong to claim to set a performance bar, Peleg said: "Right." He added: "We didn't tune our systems and we think we could achieve the same numbers with fewer disk drives."

Isilon is standing by its claims.

Sam Grocott said that Isilon doesn't consider Exanet has a true scale-out NAS architecture. As defined by Gartner and others it means scaling out performance and capacity in a single file system and a single volume. He said Exanet's architecture involves multiple volumes with eight or twelve clustered server heads and hundreds or thousands of disk drives stacked behind them. There are multiple volumes and it's a traditional clustered NAS architecture, not a true scale-out NAS concept.

He said an Isilon cluster could scale out to 144 nodes and about 650,000 IOPS, more than five times higher than the Exanet number. ®

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