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NAS consolidation options

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There are four main ways to consolidate NAS. The approach you take depends on your storage environment, as well as your management and performance requirements.

There's an old but regrettably true saw: The first NAS box installs without a hitch, but the more filers you install the more your problems grow. Consolidating NAS brings huge benefits to your storage environment: reduced management activity, improved performance, increased storage capacity and it frees data center floor space.

There are four basic ways to consolidate NAS data:

  • The traditional approach, where you buy bigger and better versions of the NAS gateways and/or integrated NAS filers you already own.


  • Clustered file systems, which provide high-performance access to file- system data for companies with large compute clusters.


  • Parallel file systems, similar to clustered file systems, provide concurrent access to a single file across a number of nodes operating in parallel.


  • NAS aggregators that can be used to consolidate data across a number of distinct NAS filers (both gateways and integrated NAS).
EMC Corp., Network Appliance (NetApp) Inc. and others continue to introduce faster and bigger high-end filers for their enterprise customers. In some cases, these boxes hold more than 100TB of NAS data and support multiprotocol

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access (CIFS, NFS, FTP, etc.). These products provide all of the enterprise-class functionality you've come to expect, such as backup, mirroring, replication and clustering support for high availability.

Traditional NAS boxes come in two flavors: gateways and integrated boxes. A NAS gateway has a front-end file server with external back-end storage attached via Fibre Channel (FC). An integrated NAS box has a front-end file server and back-end storage integrated and purchased together in one subsystem. There are a limited number of back-end storage options for an integrated NAS box. A NAS gateway can potentially support storage from many vendors.

Non-traditional approaches for NAS consolidation include clustered file systems, parallel file systems and NAS aggregators. A clustered file system supports file systems across a cluster of servers. Parallel file systems support files over a cluster of servers, but also provide for concurrent file access across the cluster. NAS aggregators group together multiple NAS boxes under one single management point, aggregating disparate file-server products under one umbrella.

This was first published in December 2005

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