IBM overhauls NAS, storage arrays

IBM is set to announce new hard drives, processors and connectivity options for its NAS and FAStT storage products.

Just a week after it said it would fold its storage group back into its server division, IBM announced plans to revamp the nuts and bolts of its network-attached storage (NAS) and storage array systems. IBM will swap out old components for bigger, faster hard drives, processors and interconnect technologies.

The hardware upgrades include the first NAS system to use a TCP/IP offload engine (TOE) designed to accelerate data traffic to and from NAS devices.

TOEs are embedded in the adapter board that offloads TCP/IP processing from the host microprocessor and operating system. A TOE reduces CPU overhead and network latency, while increasing system throughput.

IBM says that the combined addition of new processors and the TOEs to its NAS line can boost performance in Windows environments by 50%. IBM said Unix application performance (NFS) has also increased by 30% for both NAS models.

There was some internal debate at IBM over whether to hold off on the hardware enhancements until the next batch of software was ready to go, according to David Vaughn, program manager for storage networking for IBM's storage systems group, which will become part of the server group on Jan. 1. Ultimately, IBM opted to release the new hardware components "to get function and increases to customers faster," he said.

"One of the decisions we make as we release new software and hardware is: 'do we [release them] together?'" Vaughn said. "Inside our NAS boxes there are multiple hardware components that are constantly changing."

Mike Kahn, chairman and analyst for the Wellesley, Mass.-based Clipper Group Inc., said that IBM is trying to give all of its customers what they want through hardware upgrades and by adding different form factors to its NAS offerings.

"There's a broad set of requirements out there. IBM is keeping it fresh. They continue to fine-tune and keep their technology current," Kahn said.

Kahn added that IBM's decision to merge its storage and server units could result in more "cross-pollenization" of technology to solve performance problems between servers and storage. The server and storage groups were always working together, but not closely enough to be advantageous, Kahn said.

"There are a lot of similarities in [how] they build servers and storage," he said.

TOEs aren't the only addition to IBM's storage systems. The company has doubled the processing power of the TotalStorage NAS 200 by using 2.4 GHz Intel Xeon processors. Big Blue has added 146.8G byte hard drives to its NAS 200 for 7T bytes of total storage capacity.

The TotalStorage NAS Gateway 300 has been given the same set of new components as its smaller NAS 200 sibling, but reaches a capacity of 22T bytes. The NAS Gateway 300 will also feature increased throughput to storage area networks (SANs) using 2G bit/sec Fibre Channel attachment technology.

IBM didn't forget its littlest NAS device in this round of upgrades. The company said it will expand the availability of its NAS 100 to allow IBM business partners currently eligible to re-market products from IBM's personal computing division to also re-market the IBM TotalStorage NAS 100 to its customers.

Also, IBM has doubled the capacity of the TotalStorage FAStT storage server to 32T bytes using the 146.8G byte drives.

IBM has made a number of changes to its line of NAS devices this year. In March, the company added self-healing and self-managing software technologies to its NAS product line. In July, the company added an entry-level NAS system to its portfolio in the form of the 1U-high TotalStorage NAS 100, referred to as a "pizza box" because of its low, box-like shape.

The NAS 200, Gateway 300 and FAStT storage servers will be available Nov. 22. Pricing for the NAS 200 model begins at $17,295 for a 220G byte configuration. Pricing for the FAStT servers was not disclosed.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

IBM's merged groups might not bode well for storage

IBM fills out NAS line

IBM wraps NAS in self-healing server software

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