Best storage products of 2004


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Networking Equipment


Acopia's ARX switches manage NAS boxes to create a virtual pool of storage.
Acopia Networks' ARX 1000 and 6000 switches
In an industry dominated by proprietary solutions, Lowell, MA-based Acopia Networks Inc.'s ARX 1000 and ARX 6000 switches create a unified storage pool with a global namespace from disparate NAS devices. It's a less-expensive, easier way to manage NAS, and the switches can also move less-critical files onto tiered storage platforms.

With a single pool of Unix/Linux NFS and Microsoft CIFS files, storage administrators can make changes to the composition or location of storage resources in the pool without disrupting users or changing client configurations.

The benefits of a single storage pool are

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huge: It becomes a no-brainer to establish policies delivered through the in-band ARX switches for fine-grained file management, such as capacity balancing and information lifecycle management (ILM). An administrator, for example, can set policies to migrate files from primary to secondary storage based on file type, file age, frequency of access or other criteria.

"This is the first product to put NAS virtualization within an Ethernet switch," one judge wrote. "It delivers lots of functionality, excellent performance and value."

Speaking of performance, any in-band device that's making real-time decisions in an enterprise-class network needs to be fast and have exceptionally low latency. In a recent test conducted by the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), Milford, MA, the Acopia switches achieved 600,000 file operations per second and 2.6GB/sec of throughput while incurring 0.5% insertion latency. "The performance and scale of the Acopia products comfortably exceed the capabilities of any single traditional NAS system," ESG reported.

Because they reside smack in the middle of the network, ARX switches can adjust to client access or network conditions. For example, if users consistently access certain files across a WAN link, a policy might automatically move those files to storage closer to users to minimize WAN traffic and improve access times. Another benefit of an in-band device is that there's no need to install (and manage) agents on hosts or storage devices. And security poses no problem for the switches because all client permissions are passed through to the particular device where the files reside.

In a world of rapidly proliferating NAS boxes, Acopia brings a sensible, elegant way to manage NAS capacity and has the switch smarts to implement tiered storage at the network layer (see Acopia adds intelligence to the network).


HyperIP, from NetEx, is an antidote to TCP/IP ills that improves WAN storage links.
NetEx's HyperIP
the price of bandwidth is dropping, but it's still one of the largest expenses for an IT organization. Exponential data growth and new regulations have combined to place added pressure on storage applications to meet geographically dispersed user requirements. When a TCP/IP WAN has a typical packet loss of approximately 1%, data protection windows for operations such as volume replications can be missed. Packet loss is a direct result of bit error rate (BER), jitter, network congestion, distance, router buffer overruns and multiple service providers.

By eliminating or reducing TCP/ IP network degradation, Network Executive (NetEx) Software Inc.'s HyperIP accelerates application throughput, the company claims, from 300% to 1,000% compared to the transmission rate of typical IP networks. HyperIP's compression can increase that throughput an additional two to 15 times, depending on the data's compressibility. Of course, your mileage will vary, but those are pretty impressive numbers.

Said one judge: "[HyperIP] solves a costly market problem. [It's] a unique product that is very easy to use and manage. The value is exceptional." Users simply plug the HyperIP appliance into their IP switch and assign the storage applications to accelerate. HyperIP works with any IP-based storage application, and has been certified with EMC's SRDF Adaptive Copy, IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager, Microsoft's Exchange NetBios, Network Appliance's SnapMirror, Oracle Corp.'s databases, and Veritas Software's Volume Replicator and NetBackup.

For companies looking to reduce backup windows and increase productivity, HyperIP can help them to achieve those objectives.


The SANbox 5200, QLogic's stackable 10Gb switch, offers easy configuration.
QLogic's SANbox 5200 switch
QLogic Corp.'s SANbox 5200 is the first stackable switch featuring 10Gb FC technology. Starting at $5,795 for an eight-port configuration, the SANbox 5200 comes with many ease-of-use features such as wizards for installation, configuration and zoning. QLogic's bundled management application--SANsurfer Management Suite--also simplifies stack management by allowing users to monitor status, diagnose problems and perform upgrades from one application.

The SANbox 5200 can scale to 64 ports (you only pay for the ports you use) and delivers the performance of a modular switch. A single, 10Gb inter-switch link (ISL) ensures low latency between switches and eliminates the cost and complexity of trunking 2Gb ports. And the SANbox 5200 features non-disruptive code load and activation, so a user can install firmware upgrades without the need to reboot the system.

According to one judge, the SANbox 5200 "is incredibly easy to use, with all the SAN functionality you could ask for at a very low price. It makes SANs a no-brainer [for small businesses or remote offices]."

This was first published in January 2005

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