merging of network-attached storage (NAS) and storage
area network (SAN) reached a significant milestone last
month when Network Appliance announced its genre-breaking
storage device, the FAS900.
A first in the industry, the move was also a departure
from Network Appliance's mainstay NAS business. In his
keynote in New York during the product launch, founder
and executive vice-president of engineering, Dave Hitz,
admitted that the company is bowing to popular demand
and the rising strength of the SAN market.
"You can't imagine how weird it is for me to stand
here and talk about our new product, after years of
talking about how SAN sucks," he said. "The
reason is simple. It is what customers are asking for,"
he said, jesting that, "In this economy, if a customer
wants to give you money, you take it!"
With the FAS900, Hitz is hoping that enterprises will
bite its integrated SAN and NAS pitch. He claimed that
"MIS are tired of always weighing between block
data or file, NAS or SAN," adding that in terms
of cost justification, having SAN and NAS in one package
makes good sense.
The new FAS900 family comprises 2 classes of devices.
The FAS960 and FAS940 can be outfitted with up to
448 disk driveswith the FAS960 capable of
32TB, and the FAS940 18TB. The FAS960c and FAS940c
have half the rackspaceup to 224 drives, with
the FAS960c capable of 16TB, and the FAS940 9TB.
The new drives run on the Data ONTAP software version
6.3. The new upgrade can also be applied to Network
Appliance's existing line of NAS, specifically the
F880 and F825.
means you are dealing with one set of manuals, one training
class, one operating system and one management console.
And the situation where your NAS is full and SAN is
half-empty can be easily addressed. The real benefit
to all this is saving money."
In terms of convergence, the FAS900 integrates both
SAN and NAS systems in the same box, with a combined
disk capacity of up to 32 TB (48 TB with future software
upgrades is promised). Unlike NAS gateways, the industry's
current attempt at merging SAN and NAS, the FAS900 features
a truer block and file data integration, as well as
common disk usage for both SAN and NAS applications.
Where the NAS gateways sold by EMC, Auspex and others
require discrete disk partitions to be pre-defined,
the FAS900 is more fluid, with dynamically expandable
logical unit numbers (LUN), as well as the ability to
allocate storage between volumes and LUNs.
Network Appliance painted several scenarios why this
is important for enterprises. For example, dynamic LUN
configuration means that IT managers can easily scale
their SAN or NAS usage. And since they can now switch
between NAS to SAN, and vice versa, on the fly, software
testing becomes easier and more flexible. A second highlight
of the FAS900 is multi-protocol support. The FAS900
subsumes nearly all current storage network access protocols
into a cloud-like 'fabric' interface, which features
Network Appliance's in-house Write Anywhere File Layout
(WAFL) file system and LUN semantics software. Protocols
supported include fibre-channel, SCSI, iSCSI, NFS, CIFS
and DAFS. For now, integration of disk arrays do not
extend to other makes, although Network Appliance indicated
that this is in the offing. For Hitz, storage "must
go the way of networking, where the rule is that every
device must speak multiple protocols."
At a product demo in its New York launch, there were
sharp intakes of breath in the packed demo room when
a Network Appliance spokesperson explained how future
databases can take advantage of FAS900's multi-protocol
storage access, and implement databases that can be
updated simultaneously from multiple clients and applications.
For example, a database that is being written via blocks
of data can be queried simultaneously via a query engine
from a file-based client.
"Provided that your application is strong enough
to do such a 'mind-meld', this can be a powerful feature,"
said Chris Bennet, Director for platforms and systems,
Product Marketing, Network Appliance.
He added that Oracle is presently working to incorporate
such a feature. The FAS900 will be widely available
by this December.
Ong Boon Kiat in New York.
article first appeared in Network Computing - Asian