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TrueNAS Scale puts storage spin on HCI

TrueNAS Scale hits general availability and marks iXsystems' first foray into HCI, bringing scale-out storage to its NAS devices.

After being tested in alpha and beta for a year, iXsystems is tossing its hat into the hyper-converged infrastructure ring with TrueNAS Scale.

TrueNAS Scale is iXsystems' open source HCI product and provides scale-out file and object storage services and support for containerized applications, including Kubernetes environments, according to the vendor. It ships on iXsystems' network attached storage (NAS) devices, including its M-Series, R-Series and Minis.

IXsystems' entrance into HCI, an umbrella term for products that combine storage, compute and networking into a single system with the ability to scale out, comes at a time of continued growth for the market.

"The hyper-converged infrastructure market continues to grow, as enterprises turn to HCI for ease of deployment and management, cost-effective scalability and hardware flexibility," according to Carol Sliwa, a research director at IDC.

She pointed to a September IDC survey, where more than half of the 561 IT pros who responded replaced some of their shared storage systems with HCI, and 23% were replacing existing systems with HCI at edge or remote sites on technology refreshes.

Still, the road ahead for iXsystems may not be an easy one.

"It's a tough market for new vendors to crack," Sliwa added. "Open source software can be harder to deploy, with fewer user-friendly features than commercial options, so it tends to find more acceptance among hyperscalers and large organizations with IT staffs that have sophisticated skill sets."

TrueNAS scale
TrueNAS Scale from iXsystems is now generally available.

Keeping close to storage roots

IXsystems is known for its NAS operating system, TrueNAS, built on its open source OS that utilizes the OpenZFS file system. Originally, users could run the open source OS, TrueNAS Core, on x86 hardware as well as the vendor's own network-attached appliances. Later, the vendor offered both the free version of its OS and an enterprise version, TrueNAS Enterprise, before merging the two under the banner of TrueNAS.

TrueNAS Scale includes the benefits and features of TrueNAS but adds scale-out capabilities that emphasize storage, a notable difference when compared to other HCI vendors, which tend to emphasize compute, according to Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting.

It's a tough market for new vendors to crack.
Carol SliwaResearch director, IDC

"What iXsystems is doing with TrueNAS Scale is more of a scale-out storage that also does HCI," Staimer said, adding that TrueNAS Scale is an interesting move for a mid-tier company like iXsystems to make.

Because of its use of OpenZFS, TrueNAS Scale is able to supply storage to applications outside of the HCI, Staimer said. As new storage appliances are added to the cluster, they are given a global namespace, so that as systems connect to the namespace, they can access data regardless of what node it is on, assuming they have access, he said. The data can be viewed as a single system.

Scaling to exabytes

The scale-out properties are a large part of the new announcement. TrueNAS Enterprise scaled between 20 TB and 20 PB in a single system, according to Brett Davis, executive vice president of iXsystems. There is a hardware limitation beyond 20 PB, leading to inefficiencies. By scaling out, users can theoretically expand up to two exabytes, he said.

TrueNAS Scale runs on the same storage systems as TrueNAS Core and TrueNAS Enterprise, which enables a simplified migration when companies need to add more storage, iXsystems said.

TrueNAS Scale can start with a single node, for instance, the iXsystems' M-Series. From there, users can seamlessly add new units one at a time, according to Davis, a capability that some competitors such as Scale Computing also provide.

For management of TrueNAS Scale, everything is kept familiar by using TrueCommand, management software for iXsystems' storage OS, providing a unified display, Davis said. The user experience for TrueCommand is similar for a user on a home desktop using TrueNAS Core as it is for an enterprise customer managing 100 PB on TrueNAS Scale.

Hardware support

Last year, iXSystems teased TrueNAS Scale support for the TrueNAS X-Series, M-Series and, new at the time, R-Series.

Now iXsystems has added TrueNAS Scale support to the three storage appliances lines: Minis, aimed at professionals and small businesses; the R-Series storage appliances designed for high-performance clusters; and the M-Series storage appliances designed for high-performance clusters, with high availability versions coming in the first quarter of 2022.

TrueNAS M30, the lower end of the M-Series, starts at under $15,000 USD.

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