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Rein in NAS with file virtualization

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File virtualization appliances

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File virtualization appliances change the dynamic of how organizations manage their network file servers. For example, the appliance aggregates stranded storage capacity on network file servers, simplifies file migrations among the network file servers and virtualizes network file shares. However, these benefits depend heavily on the underlying architecture of the file virtualization appliance. Key attributes such as high availability, the ability to scale capacity and performance, and integration with third-party indexing and search engines are handled differently by the various file virtualization appliances.

Typically, organizations initially bring file virtualization appliances into their storage environments to manage file servers more efficiently. Approximately three years ago, Ubicom Inc., a developer of communications and media processor and software platforms in Sunnyvale, CA, was running out of space on its Network Appliance (NetApp) Inc. filer. However, Jim Poehlman, Ubicom's chief information technologist, didn't have the $100,000 required to upgrade the filer. While he had other network filers available with excess capacity, he needed to migrate files in real-time without disrupting production applications because downtime would cost the company tens of thousands of dollars per hour in lost productivity and missed service-level agreements.

Poehlman deployed NeoPath Networks' File Director, which "didn't require us to reconfigure our network or bring our applications down," he says. "NeoPath Networks also gave us a price break by selling it to us for $15,000, though at the time we bought it they were still in beta."

Kevin Hayes, technology security manager for the City of Jacksonville, FL, also needed to recapture stranded storage capacity. Hayes had approximately 15 Microsoft Corp. file servers with varying amounts of excess capacity. As part of the reconfiguration, Hayes needed to improve application file performance, an issue he couldn't resolve with a simple file migration. To address these issues, he chose Maestro File Manager from Attune Systems Inc., which allowed him to create one logical file share that aggregated and virtualized filer volumes across different network filers. "Migrating files to one virtual file share allowed me to stripe files across my entire network file server farm ... and increase application file performance," says Hayes.

Ibis Consulting Inc., which provides electronic discovery and compliance solutions for corporations involved in litigation, had a different set of requirements. As part of its discovery process, the Providence, RI-based firm receives large amounts of data from multiple clients in different file formats that need to be uploaded to its NAS storage. Ibis then culls and classifies files from its different clients and moves the files to different storage tiers for attorney review.

Shane Lennon, vice president of strategy and market development at Ibis Consulting (now a Pitney Bowes company), selected an Acopia Networks Inc. ARX6000 because it helped to "track and place files across multiple NAS systems and a large number of CIFS shares without causing a bottleneck to the Ibis process."

This was first published in March 2007

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