IBM wraps NAS in self-healing server software

IBM has added some advanced server software to its line of network-attached storage systems. IBM says the technology -- taken from the eLiza server project -- improves system management.

In a world of off-the-shelf hardware, IBM Corp., is putting the value of its network-attached storage systems in software.

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Armonk, N.Y.-headquartered IBM has taken self-healing and self-managing software technologies developed for Project eLiza and applied them to its NAS product line.

Project eLiza, which was announced in April 2001, is a multi-billion dollar program aimed at developing self-managing systems that operate "autonomically."

Developed as part of IBM's Project eLiza initiative to create intelligent IT systems capable of managing, protecting and healing themselves automatically.

The new, self-healing technology has been embedded into the latest version of IBM Director Agent 3.1 and can predict when problems may occur and, has the ability to automatically call another computer for help or even order necessary parts.

Another automated eLiza feature of IBM Director is the ability to predict processor or memory bottlenecks that can slow performance or cause unplanned downtime. The Director can alert the customer in advance of the bottleneck, make recommendations to avoid it, and provide and respond automatically when an alert is received.

IBM said the software improvements can boost performance of Unix applications by as much as 67%.

"Everybody's basically using the same hardware components," said David Vaughn, product manager for storage networking, IBM Storage Systems Group. "A hard drive is a hard drive, RAID 5 is RAID 5 and a Pentium is a Pentium. Anything you can do to lower the administrative tasks and costs with software is positive [for the customer]."

However, the hardware has not been forgotten. IBM has packed more capacity into its NAS 200 tower. The maximum capacity of the NAS 200 tower has been increased by about four times with the addition of support for a ServeRAID 4Mx adapter. The adapter allows up to 1T Byte of additional raw disk capacity via connection to an external storage unit, while the three drive insert provides up to an additional 220G Bytes of storage, bringing the total capacity up from 440G Bytes to 1.7T Bytes.

IBM also added more connectivity options to its NAS 300 and NAS 300G systems, including a two-port Fibre Channel adapter for multi-path failover support in case of a hub failure as well as support for 10/100/1000 Megabit Copper Ethernet adapter and interoperability support between the two engine version of the NAS 300G and the TotalStorage FAStT700 Storage Server.

John Webster, senior analyst and founder of the Nashua, N.H.-based Data Mobility Group Inc., said the technology provided by the eLiza technology give IBM a unique features set in the NAS market.

And, he said, if IBM incorporates InfiniBand interconnect technology as a way for NAS devices to communicate, it will give Big Blue a very scalable, self-monitoring storage network.

Webster called the enhancements very forward-looking.

IBM is also packaging its NAS products as part of end-to-end systems targeted at midrange industries like video security, digital content creation and life sciences.

The upgraded NAS systems are set to ship on June 14.

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