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Issue of March 2004 
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Storage Technology

‘Over a decade IP SANs can replace Fiber Channel SANs’

Traditionally, Indian software houses and R&D centers have used NAS filers to store their e-mail, home directories and software project related files, while telcos and banks have used SANs. Daniel J Warmenhoven, CEO of Network Appliance, tells Prashant Rao that iSCSI and IP SANs are going to play an important role in the convergence of NAS and SAN

Do you believe that newer IP technologies such as iSCSI and FCIP are going to have a substantial impact on the networked storage market?

I am not a big believer in FCIP. iSCSI is going to be extremely popular. It will be adopted more rapidly than industry analysts expect. Their estimates are off by a factor of three or more.

In the past, NAS and SAN have had clearly demarcated boundaries, with SANs being preferred when it comes to storing large transactional databases. Are these boundaries starting to blur?

I think there was a lot of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) from vendors who did not have NAS making up reasons (to establish NAS as a technology). We got certified as a storage provider for the Oracle database in 1997. Today Oracle has one petabyte (1,024 TB) on a (NetApp) filer. Half of this capacity, 500 TB, is used in Oracle's outsourcing environment, EBSO (E-Business Suite Outsourcing), a hosted service for Oracle customers running Oracle applications on NetApp NAS filers.

The popularity of SAN has to do with the ease of migration. It is easiest to migrate production databases from DAS to SAN, as fewer steps are involved, but it is the most expensive method. Legacy applications mostly use block access, and SAN is great for them.

Today there are two separate networks. You have Fiber Channel SANs and Ethernet-based NAS solutions. This is redundant; there are different operating procedures, backup methods etc. About a year back, we launched FAS products that attach to both NAS and SAN at the same time. iSCSI will become a big portion of the middle layer for both block and file access. This layer will handle asset utilization, provisioning, backup and data management. iSCSI is widely understood today, it costs less and allows for SAN and NAS convergence.

Where is storage technology headed in the next couple of years? Will IP SANs overtake Fiber Channel or will they only supplement them?

Over a decade, IP SANs can replace Fiber Channel SANs. Looking at Fiber Channel and iSCSI, it is the same phenomenon as FDDI (Fiber Distributed Data Interface) and 100BASE-T (Fast Ethernet). FDDI was supposed to be the next high-speed networking standard and for a while it sold very well. Then as 100Base-T took off, customers stopped buying FDDI. The installed base remained but new sales were of 100Base-T.

The same thing will happen with Fiber Channel and iSCSI architectures.

Is India more important to your company as an R&D base or as a market for your products? Are any products going to be developed wholly at NetApp's R&D center in Bangalore?

Today India accounts for two to three percent of our revenues. It's an incredible growth market for us. We are number three in the Indian market behind IBM and Hewlett-Packard. We are also looking to India as an R&D and support location. A lot of the software for our NetCache product is developed here. NetCache accounts for eight to ten percent of our overall revenues. We have four global support centers across the world—two in the United States, one in Europe and one in Bangalore. Our Indian center is being used to provide regional support as well as advanced product specific support for the NetCache product line. We have 65 people at our Bangalore center. By December 2005 we will have 100 in support and 200 in R&D. We'll cap the support numbers while the R&D head count will keep on growing.

We already see companies having data sizes in dozens of terabytes. Will today's data management and provisioning tools be up to the task of managing enterprise data when this scales to hundreds of terabytes or even petabytes?

Yahoo! has been over a petabyte for many years. Virtually everything you see on Yahoo! is on a NetApp filer and the whole storage infrastructure is managed by just twelve people. The management tools are definitely there.

Texas Instruments (TI) is our biggest installation in India at over 100 TB, TI has been a customer since 1995. They are moving to a 64-bit architecture for design and the models are four times larger. Cisco India has 21 systems, 16 in Bangalore. I'd guess that they are using over 100 TB. Rediff has 27 to 28 TB. Intel has ten systems, they're in the 50 to 100 TB range.

While we have heard about storage service providers (SSP), we haven't seen any in India. Is storage outsourcing going to be a popular concept?

I don't know of any storage service provider who has been successful. Value-added data management services may be viable. EDS has deployed a service based on our technology to do backup and data recovery for desktop and mobile users. One of their clients has 70,000 users.

As storage capacities rise and price-per-terabyte keeps falling, are companies finding new and innovative ways of using networked storage such as real-time business intelligence?

I don't see data warehousing and mining as a sweeping trend. I'm not sure what the next big application area will be. Most of our customers are focused on keeping costs down by increasing their operating efficiency.

What is the role of Linux in enterprise storage?

We are a preferred solution for a Linux blade environment. The whole strategy behind grid computing and the strategy of the storage grid are on Linux. For instance, the 500 TB at Oracle is on Linux. It is popular in seismic and semiconductor work. I hope the world adopts Linux for every server application. We have contributed iSCSI and NFS drivers to Linux. However, Linux is not a good multiprocessing or I/O environment. A lot of work is needed to improve its performance in a clustered environment.

Can we expect any fresh technology from NetApp in the near future?

We offer two-way clustering today. With the recent Spinnaker acquisition we will eventually offer n-way clustering. It will take about eighteen months to get that technology into the market.

Prashant L Rao can be reached at plr@vsnl.net

 
     
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