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How NAS blades in director-class switches work

Will NAS blades in director-class switches be a more popular architecture in the future? Can you talk a little bit about how this technology works?

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It is certainly not clear at this time if NAS blades in director class switches will be popular or not. Right now, I would have to say no for several reasons.

NAS devices are typically self-contained and are not widely used in enterprise data center environments where you find director-class switches. NAS gateways seem to be the preferred method for getting NAS access to storage in a SAN and putting a NAS blade in a switch is effectively making the switch act as a gateway. Combining the functionality of a switch with a NAS gateway can lead to some issues having to do with vendor lock in, administration issues, organizational tension for the person in charge of a resource and an overall lack of flexibility in changing a topology over time. I think the negatives outweigh the positives at this time.

As for technology, it is relatively simple. You put a server (a processor with memory) on a card and plug it into the backplane of a switch/director. The blade server has a NIC for network access and connects to the switch ports for storage access just like it would if it was external. A LUN (or multiple LUNs) will have to be allocated to the NAS blade just like for a gateway to use for filesystem(s).

Randy Kerns
Evaluator Group, Inc.

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This was first published in June 2003

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