Small-stature Isilon IQ 200 file server packs big features
System compensates for power-supply shortcoming with great manageability and resilienceFollow @infoworld
High-speed access to large files, such as those related to scientific research, doesn’t play nice with traditional NAS systems. They're usually just too limited in their throughput and file-system capacity.
High-end file-serving solutions from companies such as Ibrix and Isilon can do that heavy lifting much better. These products are like heavy-duty pickup trucks of the storage world: They facilitate quick and steady delivery of large file payloads.
Unfortunately products in that space come at a price that can challenge many budgets, but in January, Isilon announced the IQ 200, a new entry-level version of the company's clustered storage systems. The IQ 200 promises good throughput and scalability up to 1,000TB while maintaining the same operating systems and applications of its larger siblings.
The IQ 200 is based on 1U nodes, each equipped with four 500GB SATA drives on the front. A bezel completely covers the four drives, and it hosts ready and alert LEDs, which indicate normal use or an error condition.
An IQ 200 cluster can host from three to 24 nodes each, with a nominal capacity of 2TB. Each of the four nodes I received for evaluation ran the Isilon OneFS 4.5 OS, which according to the vendor can store as much as 1,000TB of files in a single system.
The back of the unit has the typical connectors you would expect on any server. Unlike the larger Isilon products, the IQ 200 doesn’t offer Infiniband connectivity in the back end. Instead, each node has a dedicated "internal" GigE (Gigabit Ethernet) port for connecting to other nodes and a separate "external" port.
The external port should ideally be on a subnet where only application servers are connected, but OneFS has several configuration options, including merging back-end and front-end access on a single port. For my evaluation I used separated and dedicated subnets for servers and cluster nodes.
After connecting via serial port to a node, I had access to a very easy-to-use, wizard-driven, command-line management tool that guided me through configuring the two subnets, setting which DNS server and Active Directory domain I wanted to use, and assigning a name to my cluster.
After a quick reboot, I pointed my browser to the IP address of that node, which opened the GUI management console. To add more nodes, I simply clicked on Cluster Management / Add Node. A window opened with my three remaining nodes and their MAC (media access control) address listed.
I selected two more of the nodes and in seconds, my three-node cluster was ready. I left the fourth unit in standby. Setting up an IQ 200 cluster is that easy, a process facilitated by the easy-to-reach, context-oriented online help files that both the GUI and the command-line applications have.
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