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Quantum Xcellis scale-out NAS tackles unstructured data

Quantum's new system takes on scale-out NAS and object markets. The vendor says its Xcellis NAS tier will scale from 40 TB to petabytes without a performance hit.

Quantum Corp.'s new Xcellis Scale-out NAS system moves the vendor into the mainstream NAS market, where it will take on the likes of Dell EMC Isilon and NetApp FAS.

The Quantum Xcellis Scale-out NAS appliances target large semistructured and unstructured  primary data workloads. Sample use cases include analytics, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicle development, drug discovery, genomics and immersive content.

Xcellis encompasses a line of Quantum data storage hardware managed by the StorNext scalable file system. Quantum first launched the Xcellis brand in late 2015, putting StorNext onto an appliance. The new scale-out NAS version handles higher capacity workloads, and Quantum claims it can scale to hundreds of petabytes with no effect on performance.

The new scale-out Quantum Xcellis NAS nodes are scheduled for general availability in December.

"We are aiming this product at users with high-value workflows where data is the product," said Laura Shepard, Quantum senior director of emerging technologies. "This tends to be data that grows very rapidly and requires very high performance and scale. These tend to be primary workloads that need to stay on premises.

"We believe we can offer the enterprise features of scale-out NAS with cost-effective performance scaling, which has not been a great strength of traditional enterprise NAS," Shepard said.

StorNext scale-out storage is Quantum's fastest growing segment. Quantum still drives most of its income from tape, but also sells disk-based backup. When he took over as Quantum's interim CEO last month, Adalio Sanchez called scale-out storage the vendor's growth engine. 

New Quantum configurations cluster all-flash, archiving, hybrid

Quantum Xcellis all-flash and hybrid building blocks are available in 5U and 6U form factors. The all-flash systems range from 370 TB to 925 TB of capacity. Quantum rates all-flash performance at 1 million IOPS.

Quantum Xcellis hybrid configurations for mixed workflows scale to 400 TB and 200,000 IOPS. A 3U entry-level Xcellis NAS tops out at 370 TB. Quantum also offers a 5U archive model with up to 448 TB of disk storage. Varying Quantum Xcellis node types can be mixed and managed as a single tier of storage. Users can add nodes individually to a cluster or combined in a rack-scale deployment for up to 3 PB of raw capacity.

The unified Quantum data storage presents block, file and object in a single namespace. Users can scale performance and storage separately and offload data to any StorNext-managed storage. Quantum allows tiering to on-premises object stores and the public cloud, but the data then is no longer managed by StorNext.

Quantum's StorNext data management includes audits, encryption, erasure coding, load balancing, point-in-time snapshots, RAID, replication and WORM compliance. StorNext manages Xcellis data across IBM Cloud Object Storage, NetApp StorageGrid, Scality and Quantum Lattus object platforms, as well as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure public clouds.

Will Quantum make inroads against established NAS vendors?

Scott Sinclair, a storage analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., said managing rapid data growth is not the only headache for digital-based enterprises. A bigger challenge is the ability for storage to provide streaming access to data for analytics and real-time business operations.

Sinclair breaks the enterprise NAS market into three segments: "Enterprise-class systems focus on features and functionality for data management. A second segment includes vendors that provide big pools of storage that's cheap and deep, without many features. The third segment is HPC systems optimized for speed. Quantum claims Xcellis NAS can deliver all of that in one product," Sinclair said.

"There is a demand for [NAS] technology that is good -- if not great -- at handling the multiple aspects of functionality, cost-effective scaling and performance," he added. "The question is whether Quantum Xcellis will be able to deliver to the extent that it starts to displace the incumbents. Even though there aren't many vendors, it's a difficult market to penetrate."

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