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Infinidat adds NAS to create Infinibox unified storage

Infinidat adds NAS functionality to Infinibox arrays but clustered NAS capability will have to wait until parallel file system support arrives sometime in the future

Infinidat has announced an upgrade to its Infinibox storage arrays to incorporate network-attached storage (NAS) file access Network File System (NFS) storage, although parallel file system support – commonly found in large-capacity clustered NAS systems – is still some way off.

The free upgrade to NAS storage capability is accompanied by the addition of so-called near-synchronous replication that offers a four-second recovery point objective (RPO), and the addition of an entry-level 250TB Infinibox system.

Infinidat's free NAS upgrade allows its systems to provide unified storage with snapshots, clones and dual-parity data protection.

Infinidat offers high-capacity (2PB in a 42U rack), high-performance (up to 750,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS), throughput of 12GBps), highly available (99.99999% – seven nines) storage arrays. Its stated aim is to provide “mainframe levels of performance and availability” for enterprise users to deliver webscale operations.

It does all this by breaking the mould for enterprise storage in a number of ways. Its Infinibox comes with three controllers (in contrast to the standard dual setup) in an active-active-active architecture. These contain dynamic RAM (DRAM) and flash, with all active data held in these two layers, while below that are huge amounts – 480 nearline-SAS hard-disk drives – of spinning disk.

It spreads the workload across all three nodes and out to the massive number of drives. To do that, Inifindat dispensed with the existing Linux SAS drivers and re-wrote the way the controller nodes handle data to the storage media.

The company has developed its own NFS-based file system called IFS, which can be configured as one huge file system on an Infinibox or as thousands of individual file systems. Users can create file systems or block devices on their Infinibox.

The NAS capability in Infinibox will bring it into competition with other high-capacity NAS systems. Many of these are now clustered or scale-out NAS, in which many NAS boxes can be linked together under a single parallel file system that can scale to billions of files and has the ability to add capacity or performance independently.

Scaling performance 

Infinibox clearly has high-end levels of capacity, but is it possible to scale performance as clustered NAS systems can?

CTO Brian Carmody said this is a feature that would be added in time.

“Infinibox has three controller nodes but will not be limited to three. In future, customers will be able to increase the number of controllers – and therefore processing power – over time. We will support that in future,” he said.

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Also, for the time being Infinibox's NAS capability will not come with a parallel file system, such as pNFS, that allows many nodes to be connected with a single file system in grid-like fashion.

“We decided to support NFS version three as our customers said that is the most pressing," said Carmody. "PNFS is not part of this announcement and won't be something we support this year. Customers all ask about pNFS but are not using it.”

Despite lacking characteristics found in high-end scale-out NAS systems, Carmody is happy that Infinibox can compete in its target market.

He said: “Infinibox is designed to handle workloads that bring traditional NAS systems to their knees. We are able to provide well over 400,000 SPC IOPS and give the largest NAS systems a run for their money.”

Infinidat has also introduced what it calls “near synchronous replication”, which aims to deliver an RPO of fewer than four seconds. Synchronous replication will be added in 2016, said Carmody.

“We're trying to get customers to get the benefits of asynchronous replication without the distance and performance penalties of synchronous replication. Europeans have a love affair with synchronous mirroring, but we're very interested to see if super-low RPO asynchronous replication can gain their approval," he added.

Infinidat also announced an entry-level version of the Infinibox, the F2000, which occupies 18U of rack space and provides 250TB of capacity using the same architecture. All new Infinidat products and features are available from November 2015.

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