January 18, 2018

iXsystems, the reference in open source storage

iXsystems visit during the last IT Press Tour in December was a good surprise as we discovered a hidden face of the company in addition to their product line.

First the company is not only a sales machine but also a designer of systems with its own manufacturing facility that assembles parts to build server and storage systems.

Founded in 2002 and profitable since the inception, iXsystems has an unique story driven by an open source DNA. It all started when Mike Lauth and Matt Olander acquired BSDi hardware business, 6 years after BSDi absorbed Telenet Systems Solutions Inc. The story was launched and never stops since that acquisition decision.

The philosophy chosen and proven since the origin was to prefer a private approach without nay VC money in order to stay away from financial pressure. We have to recognize that iXsystems has demonstrated that it works. The 2 other key decisions were and still are the customers interaction for product definition and to rely on open source software.

The result is impressive with strong figures, brand respected and recognized, important installed base with more than 1EB shipped. The customers list speaks for itself with famous names such Box, Evernote, VMware, LinkedIn, Sony, NBC, FOX, top universities and government research entities like NASA, LANL or LLNL.

The First activity is to produce servers powered by a series of top elements: CentOS, FreeBSD, Ubuntu, Red Hat Linux, TrueOS and storage servers running FreeNAS or TrueNAS with OpenZFS.

The firm is a system builder not a VAR with regular 5 to 10k servers produced and shipped globally per year. iXsystems provides of course full support for its configs. The team has selected multiple hardware providers and use Intel/AMD/ARM processors delivering 70% customs configurations. This is a key aspect of their success. iXsystems is a long true believer in open source and represents a hidden force, not so visible from the market except by specialists. The philosophy of the company is to be agnostic regarding hardware, OS and applications.

The second strong business is the storage appliance powered by FreeNAS or TrueNAS with OpenZFS added more recently. iXsystems is a key player in SDS perfectly illustrating the value delivered by this concept.

FreeNAS is an ubiquitous name available everywhere on the planet, great success and adoption.

As mentioned OpenZFS was added to the picture to solidify the storage engine and bring real new features especially: triple RAID parity, unified file, block and object interfaces, thin provisioning, integrated volume management, inline compression and deduplication and of course high capacity support as the file system uses a 128bits model.

The SOHO, SMB positioning of FreeNAS helps iXsystems to penetrate accounts and delivers certified rackmount systems and late introduced TrueNAS, the enterprise storage flavor. What are the differences between FreeNAS and TrueNAS:
  • The first difference is the availability how these solutions are delivered: FreeNAS is a free downloadable software and TrueNAS is integrated with the iXsystems storage appliance line.
  • The second resides in the support: FreeNAS is supported by the community and TrueNAS is commercially supported.
  • The third is based on the delivery chosen, hardware for TrueNAS so performance usability optimization and completely open for FreeNAS.
  • and the availability offered by TrueNAS leveraging some key features of OpenZFS. Interfaces is also a key element with FC, available at 2, 4 and 8GB/s, active/active storage controller, TrueCache, hypervisor certifications, unlimited snapshots, data at-rest and in-flight encryption.
One other way to see differences resides in the usage of these products. In fact, FreeNAS is for non-critical informations and TrueNAS when things starts to be critical.

The TrueNAS Z35 can scale to 4.8PB of raw storage capacity in only 35U of rack space. The X20 can scale to 720TB in only 6U of rack space. The density and cost per TB of TrueNAS storage makes this a compelling option.

The company has also some ideas to deliver an object storage solution and thus deliver an even more comprehensive portfolio. For that the team has selected one of the best object storage, of course open source, of the planet. I lets you imagine who is it. We expect great new things in 2018.

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