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NAS gateway versus SAN-attached server

We have a fixed budget and we are about to purchase a fairly large disk array. I would like to have a way to export some of this storage to my non-SAN connected hosts. The obvious (and possibly easiest) answer would be to purchase the NAS gateway option, but would it be more prudent to spend my money on the storage library and simply connect a server to the SAN that could export CIFS and NFS share?

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You certainly could attach a server to your SAN-attached storage and then configure that server as a NAS server, providing NFS and CIFS file access as an alternative to implementing an NAS gateway. Be sure to consider your performance, availability, backup, and management requirements for the NAS storage access. Secondarily, you need to identify if the cost of a server (which is either dedicated or performs other functions besides NAS file serving) has enough performance, enough network and Fibre Channel adapter ports to attach to the SAN. You will also need to determine whether it will be easier for your environment to manage a server that is supporting NAS or a NAS gateway on a daily basis, including performing backup. Finally you need to compare the cost of the server, including any Fibre Channel adapters, NAS software, etc., with the costs associate with a NAS gateway. A NAS gateway can be an easy approach, given their turnkey nature, particularly if the NAS gateway is integrated or optimized to work with what ever storage system you are looking to acquire for your SAN.

This was first published in September 2004

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