NetApp bridges the SAN/NAS gap with new filers

NetApp bridges the SAN/NAS gap with new filers

Network Appliance has taken its first plunge into the storage-area network (SAN) marketplace with a new server series and software edition that can perform file-level or block-level data transfers using the same disk pool, greatly reducing management headaches and wasted storage space.

The new technology is the first to eliminate the physical boundary between a SAN and network-attached storage (NAS) that has traditionally been bridged using a gateway device, such as an NAS engine or "head" that uses a separate operating system.

The company has introduced its Fabric Attached Storage (FAS) series file servers -- the 1.8GHz FAS940 and 2.0GHz FAS960 models -- that scale from 8TB to 32TB of capacity. The new models have a 25 per cent performance increase over NetApp's older-model F880 filer and reduce data transfer times by a third.

Dave Hitz, Network Appliance's founder and executive vice president of engineering, told a packed theatre in Times Square that after evangelising for NAS for 10 years, his company is getting into the SAN market because customers want it.

"From a technical perspective, the coolest thing is to install an Oracle database using NFS going over NAS. And then, if you decide to, you can tell your systems I'd like to take this exact same data, convert it to a LUN [logical unit number] and run it on Fibre Channel for a while," Hitz said.

Prices for the arrays, with management software, range between $US150,000 and $1 million and vary based on capacity and software systems, Hitz said. The FAS900 series will scale to 48TB and include native SCSI over IP connectivity (iSCSI) by the middle of next year.

Hitz also said that SAN technology has opened up new partnerships for Network Appliance, including reseller agreements with storage vendors such as switch makers McData and Brocade Communications Systems and storage software companies Veritas Software and IBM's Tivoli.

Network Appliance's latest version of Data OnTap 6.3, FAS960 and FAS940, as well as older-model F880 and F825 filers, can simultaneously manage NAS volumes and SAN LUNs to serve up block-level data across Fibre Channel networks and take snapshots of LUNs.

The FAS900 manages both NAS volumes and SAN LUNs, and includes the ability to allocate storage between the two, to dynamically expand LUNs and to take snapshots of LUNs. The new software also offers LUN masking, dynamic LUN expansion and Wizard-based LUN setup.

Hitz said that having the same operating system across all three lines of storage devices -- file servers, NearStore array and NetCache server -- allows users to achieve true modularity and a single interface.

"The number one advantage to our approach is simplicity," Hitz said. "The vast majority of applications can go either way, anyway [SAN or NAS]."

Steve Duplessie, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, predicted that Network Appliance would find great success selling into an already well-established NAS market.

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