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Isilon vs. Xsan

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Michael Orlansky
Isilon vs. Xsan
on Jan 31, 2011 at 6:32:09 pm

I wanted to get some opinions from people about using Isilon for a 6 seat edit facility using ProRes as our main codec. I'm aware of the much lower bandwith compared to a fibre channel Xsan but I'm wondering if it's still worth it to have an Isilon which requires much less maintenance and care than Xsan if you can get away with the lower throughput.

I'm going to be building out a new facility, my first, and I'm trying to determine which storage solution I want to go with. Isilon seems very attractive but I wanted to get some firsthand opinions from those who have actually used it.

Thanks,
Mike


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Caspian Brand
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Jan 31, 2011 at 7:40:15 pm

Isilon is a newer player in this market by comparison, and their tools have come from a very IT-centric background. Doesn't mean their not in the broadcast game, they're at NAB every year, but I bet you'll find a lot more content creation houses using XSAN. Both are clustered file systems. XSAN relies on Fibre Channel client connections with Apple Servers set up to provide Ethernet gateways to the file system. My impression of Isilon is that it's based on Ethernet connections to the clients.

If you're building your first system, I'd also recommend looking at high performance systems that don't have the high expense, and cost of implementation of clustered file systems and separate metadata networks. There are a number of solutions out there than can more than provide you with the performance needed for 6 ProRes clients, at a much more attractive price tag, with far more simple configuration and maintenance requirements.

Take my company's solution for example, which can provide both Fibre and Ethernet in the same solution, and doesn't require metadata controllers or networks:

http://www.studionetworksolutions.com/products/product_detail.php?t=more&pi...

Browse the COW some more and see what similar users are doing for their environments, and call some of us to find out what we can do for you.

Best Luck to you!
-Caspian

Product Specialist
Studio Network Solutions


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Michael Orlansky
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Jan 31, 2011 at 8:20:36 pm

Thanks for the info Caspian. I'm quite familiar with Xsan as I've been working with it for the past 3+ years, I just wanted to get a sense from those using Isilon what they thought of it; as well as other solutions out there. I appreciate your response.

Thanks,
Mike


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Caspian Brand
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Jan 31, 2011 at 8:32:06 pm

Ah, no worries, Mike, when I read your initial post, it sounded like this was your first foray into a shared storage environment for media production.

Product Specialist
Studio Network Solutions


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Michael Orlansky
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Jan 31, 2011 at 9:08:58 pm

Yes, I should have been more clear. It's my first build out alone. If any other Isilon users out there would care to opine I would love to hear it. Thanks!

Thanks,
Mike


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David Gagne
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Jan 31, 2011 at 8:30:02 pm

"Isilon which requires much less maintenance and care than Xsan" -- not true in my experience...

Their annual support is very expensive, and we've needed it for failed batteries and other difficulties. Yes you don't need fiber, and you can get pretty decent aggregate throughput, but I wouldn't purchase it for it's ease of use. It's Linux, so you'll have to get used to CLI, also you'll deal with NFS mount scripts, goofy posix permissions, etc.

Don't get me wrong, it's great technology. I think it's strength is in expansion with it's OneFS and the ability to just add nodes without worrying about it and it's ability to handle all the data. For expansion, yes, it's less complicated than XSAN for certain.

But... you have to grow with same-style nodes, which can be a pain. We have 4 X nodes, and if I wanted to add big-slow storage, I'd have to add an additional 3 NL nodes, not just one.

I can expound some more if you like. I think it's some great tech but I don't know if I like it for an edit solution.


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Michael Orlansky
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Jan 31, 2011 at 9:15:39 pm

Thanks Dave, these are the comments I'm looking for. I know the initial installation is a 3 box minimum. You currently have 4, are you saying if you wanted to simply add another box to expand storage you need to get another 3 nodes, not just 1?

Have you seen any bandwith issues having 5 or 6 people hitting the Isilon editing HD?

It seems like you would still favor a traditional SAN which clearly has the advantage for throughput. If managing an Isilon is not as simple as they make it sound maybe it's better to stick with the devil I know than the one I don't...

Of course that has its own problems, no more xserve! I won't be building this system out for at least 6 months.

Thanks,
Mike


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David Gagne
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Feb 1, 2011 at 3:00:12 am

You need a minimum of three nodes of a kind. It's sort of like Rummy - you can have any number more than three of the same kind. Isilon has three node types:

S-Series (the S is for speed)
X-Series (the X is for crossover? middle of the road)
NL-Series (The NL is for... who knows? Dense storage, supposedly slower, but probably not much).

For us, we don't need more performance (weird, right?). We need more storage space. So NL series would make sense... but we'd have to get 3 of them minimum, and they are not cheap... We could add an X, but it would take like ten X's to get that much storage...

As for bandwidth issues, I haven't seen any yet! We just did an 8-cam record (DVC Pro 100) with 2 editors working, and it was great! The math is pretty straightforward, you get 2 gigabit ports per node (so 8 total for us). You can do whatever you like with them, but you'll never get more than gigabit out of one port. Theoretically we could get ~8Gb/s out of this thing, but I'd need 8+ things maxing out their gig ports. Initially we didn't know what we were doing and had almost everything hitting the same port. This obviously failed.

Honestly, I prefer SAN not just for performance, but for the direct native access with ACLs and all the mac goodness. We've had issues with permissions over and over again and have to make sure our mountscripts are pointing to the right places... It is a NAS after all.

Like I said, it's biggest selling point is the OneFS and the ease of expansion. Need more space? Add nodes. Need more speed? Add more nodes or add a performance accelerator (more gig ports).

I think it could meet a lot of people's needs very well, but for the cost (make sure to include annual support, it's a killer!), why not build a wicked fast SAN? Need ethernet clients? Add a 6 port gig card to a mac pro...

Read about our recent 8-cam conference capture here: http://thegagne.com/2011/01/05/onething-2010-8-cams-2-edit-one-storage/


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Michael Orlansky
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Feb 1, 2011 at 3:19:52 am

Dave, great advice, I truly appreciate it. I have a lot to think about but perhaps sticking with a traditional SAN is still the best option.

Thanks,
Mike


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Bob Zelin
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Feb 1, 2011 at 3:49:35 am

Michael -
if you read thru this very forum, you will see LOTS of systems that you can use. You only want to have 6 clients, and are only doing ProRes422HQ - right ? Guess what, THEY ALL WORK, you don't need a real expensive complex system for this type of small system.

Read thru this very forum, on what has been recommended, and you will be fine. Not unless you want a complex system that will guarantee you job security. ALL the systems listed here all work
by themselves, once they are setup, without administration (ok, except for XSAN).

Bob Zelin



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Michael Orlansky
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Feb 1, 2011 at 10:24:19 pm

Thanks Bob. I've been scouring this forum for the past week or so and have read just about every post you wrote about the different systems. I will look into them further to see what's what. Thanks for the advice.

Thanks,
Mike


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David Gagne
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Feb 1, 2011 at 3:50:18 am

The best thing to do is really pay attention to what your specific requirements are. High bandwidth? Lots of clients? Lots of data? Mobility? Diverse softwares and uses?


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Michael Orlansky
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Feb 1, 2011 at 10:28:57 pm

Clients shouldn't grow to any more than 10 (realistically I'm thinking more like 5-7). We'll be doing SD and HD promo's in PAL (that's another issue I'll have to deal with). It's going mainly be a final cut pro based facility with After Effects and some Photoshop work as well. I could see our storage needs growing a lot considering it will eventually become a digital file based workflow.

Thanks,
Mike


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Jordan Woods
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Feb 2, 2011 at 7:09:35 pm

It is important to remember who Isilon is now, EMC. The deal is done, but the two companies are still merging. I have yet to see a road map from EMC on their plans for the acquisition other than the rumors and speculation that it was bought to fight against Netapp and their "big iron" scale out NAS.


-Jordan


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Steve Modica
Re: Isilon vs. Xsan
on Feb 7, 2011 at 3:10:58 pm

I know the isilon guys and I like them a lot. It's infiniband clustering and lots of cool load balancing. All good stuff.
That being said, you have 6 guys. You don't need all of that. You also don't need the amazing modularity they offer. So why spend that kind of money?
Small Tree can put something in with very low latency and it's all stuff you can easily repurpose when you upgrade one day.
Steve

Steve Modica
CTO, Small Tree Communications


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