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NetApp brings NAS gateway to IBM users

Kevin Komiega

While IBM has been slow to detail its network-attached storage (NAS) strategy, Network Appliance Inc. has taken its tried-and-true NAS gateway product and set it loose on IBM users in need of a way to manage block- and file-level storage.

Network Appliance (NetApp), Sunnyvale, Calif., has announced that its enterprise gFiler system now supports unified NAS and storage area network (SAN) consolidation for IBM storage platforms.

The gFiler is a NAS gateway, which provides file services to an otherwise block storage device. A NAS gateway provides file access to block storage and file sharing among clients.

NetApp has expanded the gFiler system to include support for the IBM Enterprise Storage Server (Shark) line of SAN arrays. The gFiler series is in the final stages of completing the IBM TotalStorage Proven interoperability and certification program. Achieving IBM TotalStorage Proven status means that the integrated solution will work reliably with IBM ESS disk arrays, according to NetApp.

"Up until this point and time (the gFiler) only supported Hitachi Data Systems. Now NetApp will be selling into IBM Enterprise Storage Server and FastT installations," said Mark Santora, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for NetApp. HDS sells a co-branded version of NetApp's gFiler for use in front of its Lightning and Thunder storage arrays.

"Although IBM continues to sell its Windows 2000-based NAS gateways for its FC SANs, the gFilers from

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NetApp offer IBM customers a strong alternative especially in the Unix environment," said Pushan Rinnen, a principal analyst at Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn.

IBM issued a product withdrawal notice in July that ended the life of its TotalStorage NAS 100 and NAS 200 products. The NAS 100 and NAS 200 systems were based on the Windows operating system.

"NetApp's NAS products have been widely accepted and therefore should have some level of success until IBM comes out with its own NAS solution. However, how big the success will be depends on how many customers are looking for NAS gateways," Rinnen said.

NetApp has also added some software options to the gFiler. The entire portfolio of NetApp business continuance and data permanence software, including synchronous SnapMirror, MetroCluster, SyncMirror, SnapLock Enterprise and its new SnapMover load distribution software are all available for the gFiler.

Another new feature of the gFiler is a front-end Fibre Channel connection. According to Santora, when users establish a Fibre Channel connection to a SAN through the gFiler they will enable common storage management – i.e., have access to the same NetApp software -- whether storing block or file-level data. For example, by jury-rigging a SAN through the gFiler NAS head, its possible to use NetApp's SnapMirror software to perform snapshots between NAS and SAN. This is a feature that Santora said was "stumbled upon" by end users.

Steve Kenniston, a technology analyst with Enterprise Storage Group Inc., Milford, Mass., believes that confusion over what to do with its NAS products will allow NetApp to win over as many IBM shops as it did HDS users.

"IBM is 'figuring out' its NAS strategy -- they know it, but the full-fledged version is not on the market today -- and NetApp is a trusted name in the NAS space," Kenniston said. "They know that folks that buy Sharks have money to spend."

The gFiler GF960, GF940 and GF825 and clustered versions scale in capacity to 48 terabytes. NetApp said the release of iSCSI support on gFiler complements the system's existing NAS capabilities and provides data accessibility to a broader range of servers and applications.

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

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