With the IPO completed, interest in Isilon among StorageMojo readers has been growing. So I thought I’d take a gander at their pricing and see how it stacks up. I’m fast tracking this project – doing the writing and analysis concurrently – so when you get to the end you’ll learn what I didn’t know at the start.

Using the handy StorageMojo Isilon Price List I put together an Isilon system using their top-of-the-line 6000 series nodes. Like most storage vendors, Isilon doesn’t actually provide the information required to configure their systems. I can see why IBM doesn’t, but a new vendor like Isilon should, since most of their customers are fairly knowledgeable and control freaks as well.

Just like Legos, only not as colorful
Building an entry-level Isilon cluster is pretty easy, given that I don’t know any better. You need three:

IQ6000iIQ 6000i InfiniBand platform nodes @ $21,411 = $64,233

and then you need one:

IQSwitch – Flextronics 24-port Infiniband switch @ $7,609

and some cables, let’s say 12 (I’m a little hazy on Infinband cables, (well, right NOW I’m a little hazy on everything, due to the post-prandial libations) but as I recall they are 2.5Gb each, so if you want, say, 10GB, you need four per node) [Update – a couple of alert readers assure me that the IB cables are 4x, so I’ve corrected the following calculations.] but who knows, maybe these are 4x cables and Isilon is just being coy:

5 Meter InfinBand cable @ $239 = $717

and, of course, what would hardware be without the noble leavening of software? A moldering hunk of inert metal, you say? So let’s add the “OneFS File System”, that, in words that would do Hopkinton proud:

OneFS® is Isilon’s patent-pending operating system software that provides the intelligence behind all Isilon® clustered storage systems. It combines the three layers of traditional storage architectures – file system, volume manager and RAID – into one unified software layer, creating a single intelligent file system that spans all nodes within a cluster. OneFS combines mission-critical reliability and high availability with state-of-the-art data protection to help storage administrators worry less and do more.

Call me crazy but doesn’t that sound a bit like ZFS? Naturally, despite my scepticism about architecture-based evaluation, I’d like to know how OneFS actually handles large numbers of small files, since it was built to handle large media files – the founders are from RealNetworks.

Of course the patent abstract (#7,146,524) is a little less breathless:

The intelligent distributed file system enables the storing of file data among a plurality of smart storage units which are accessed as a single file system. The intelligent distributed file system utilizes a metadata data structure to track and manage detailed information about each file, including, for example, the device and block locations of the file’s data blocks, to permit different levels of replication and/or redundancy within a single file system, to facilitate the change of redundancy parameters, to provide high-level protection for metadata, to replicate and move data in real-time, and to permit the creation of virtual hot spares among the smart storage units without the need to idle any single smart storage unit in the intelligent distributed file system.

So for three nodes we’d need three copies of OneFS:

OneFS 6000 platform software license for Isilon IQ 6000/6000i product (non-transferable) @ $16,376 = $49,128

So for a mere $49,128 + $717 +$7,609 +$64,233 = $121,687 you’ll have 18 TB of cluster storage. Just $6800 a TB!

The StorageMojo take
Isilon folks, feel free to comment to make any corrections. Yet somehow, this doesn’t feel like the answer to 1 PB, or even 100 TB storage. Why? Well, let’s compare to Sun’s X4500 (Thumper) that is about a quarter of that price. Granted, not clustered, nor as easily managed, yet, it just seems like for really massive data stores, the price should be closer to disk costs.

Comments welcome, as always. Moderation turned on to feed my megalomania. Or to keep spammers at bay.