Installing Your New EMC Isilon Cluster

April 15, 2016

By Don Skare, Storage Engineer at Kovarus

It’s time to install your EMC Isilon Cluster, so what do you do?


Congratulations. After spending countless man hours crunching the numbers and comparing numerous product vendor solutions, you have decided on the industry leading EMC Isilon scale-out NAS cluster solution. Whether for storage consolidation or access to your cloud based initiatives, the Isilon OneFS operating system is ideally suited for file-based and unstructured “Big Data” applications including large-scale home directories, file shares, archives, virtualization and business analytics.

Now, you will need to consider where the system will be installed. Also, if the system will need to be stored prior to installation and if there is adequate storage. If the new system came in an EMC supplied 40U-P Titan rack, the nodes and InfiniBand switches (for internal node communication) may already be racked and cabled up. In this case, cabinet power and network cabling to the rack itself will need to be determined. If the Isilon system will be installed in your racks in an on-site data center, or in a co-location facility the rack space, power and network cabling requirements will need to be determined. The number of nodes in the cluster (minimum of three) along with the InfiniBand switches will determine how much rack space will be necessary.

If this is your first EMC system, now is also a good time to register for an EMC Account. This account will give you access to a wealth of information such as technical publications like The Isilon Site Preparation and Planning Guide, Isilon Best Practices Guides, how-to videos, creating and monitoring EMC service requests and access to the EMC Community Network (ECN) where you can connect and share technical content within the global EMC Network and support communities.

The Isilon Site Preparation and Planning Guide is an excellent resource and go-to guide for the installation of the hardware components, power and environmental requirements, as well as initial system configuration. Isilon nodes are available in 2U or 4U node configuration, all of which can be added to a cluster to balance capacity and performance at any time as the need arises. Accelerator and Backup nodes are also available and both are 1U. Two InfiniBand switches for backend (internal) traffic are required for high availability and are 1U each. It is highly recommended to rack the nodes contiguously within the cabinet to simplify cabling and allow for future expansion without the need for tearing down portions of your cluster.

External networks connect the cluster to the outside world. The number of network connections will be determined by the type of Isilon node. You can use subnets in external networks to manage connections more efficiently. How you specify your external network subnets depends on the topology of your network. In a basic network topology, in which each node communicates to clients on the same subnet, only one external subnet is required. In a more complex topology, in which some nodes connect to one external IP subnet, additional nodes connect to a second IP subnet, and other nodes do not connect externally at all, several different external network subnets are required. Use careful consideration to ensure you choose network switches and cables that are compatible with your Isilon nodes and support your network topology. Isilon nodes use GigE and 10GigE Ethernet switches for the front-end (external) traffic. The number of connections is dependent on the node configure and will be discussed in depth prior to the installation.

This post is intended as a high level overview for the initial install considerations of your the Isilon cluster. You can rest assured that the entire Kovarus Professional Services Team will be with you every step of the way.