Storage firm targets government

A storage vendor that believes supersized data requires special treatment is making a play in the government market, recruiting an ex-agency executive for its board of directors and creating a new federal advisory board stocked with retired military brass.

Isilon Systems sells a clustered storage system that consists of a distributed file system that can be spread across an expandable base of modular disk systems. Designed specifically to accommodate the large file sizes found with digital content such as video, audio and imagery, the Isilon IQ system is used by customers such as NBC Sports, Sports Illustrated magazine and the University of Washington Medical Center.

Steve Goldman, Isilon's president and chief executive officer, said the system's performance characteristics are well-suited for data-intensive government applications ranging from weather monitoring to border control and satellite reconnaissance. Company officials plan to use the advice of the new board members to reach potential government buyers.

Company officials announced last week that William Ruckelshaus has joined their board of directors. Ruckelshaus has served as the acting director of the FBI, founding administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Deputy Attorney General of the Justice Department.

Joining Isilon's newly created federal advisory board are retired Army Gen. William Crouch, retired Marine Corps Gen. Richard Hearney, retired Navy Vice Adm. George Sterner and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Leslie Kenne.

One of the challenges of digital content is providing speedy access to extremely large files, often to multiple users or computers simultaneously. "It's an access pattern that traditional storage systems aren't designed for," said Sujal Patel, founder, chairman and chief technology officer of Isilon. "They've been optimized mostly for having a single application or server working at very high speed."

The Isilon IQ system, by comparison, is designed to overcome this shortcoming by breaking down files and storing them in pieces across multiple nodes in a storage cluster. Each node, which consists of disks and multiple Gigabit Ethernet ports, is a peer with knowledge of the entire file system layout, so that any node can handle access requests, according to company officials. That helps accelerate data access because the workload is simultaneously spread across multiple disks and network connections.

The company's OneFS distributed file system gives the storage cluster the appearance of a single pool of storage. Users can attach additional nodes to the cluster to increase storage capacity and throughput.

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