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Gold Award:

Acopia Networks ARX 1000 and 6000 switches

Acopia Networks ARX 1000 and 6000 switches

In an industry dominated by proprietary solutions, Lowell, MA-based Acopia Networks Inc.'s ARX 1000 and ARX 6000 switches create a unified storage pool with a global namespace from disparate NAS devices. It's a less-expensive, easier way to manage NAS, and the switches can also move less-critical files onto tiered storage platforms.

With a single pool of Unix/Linux NFS and Microsoft CIFS files, storage administrators can make changes to the composition or location of storage resources in the pool without disrupting users or changing client configurations.

The benefits of a single storage pool are huge: It becomes a no-brainer to establish policies delivered through the in-band ARX switches for fine-grained file management, such as capacity balancing and information lifecycle management (ILM). An administrator, for example, can set policies to migrate files from primary to secondary storage based on file type, file age, frequency of access or other criteria.

"This is the first product to put NAS virtualization within an Ethernet switch," one judge wrote. "It delivers lots of functionality, excellent performance and value."

Speaking of performance, any in-band device that's making real-time decisions in an enterprise-class network needs to be fast and have exceptionally low latency. In a recent test conducted by the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), Milford, MA, the Acopia switches achieved 600,000 file operations per second and 2.6GB/sec of throughput while incurring 0.5% insertion latency. "The performance and scale of the Acopia products comfortably exceed the capabilities of any single traditional NAS system," ESG reported.

Because they reside smack in the middle of the network, ARX switches can adjust to client access or network conditions. For example, if users consistently access certain files across a WAN link, a policy might automatically move those files to storage closer to users to minimize WAN traffic and improve access times. Another benefit of an in-band device is that there's no need to install (and manage) agents on hosts or storage devices. And security poses no problem for the switches because all client permissions are passed through to the particular device where the files reside.

In a world of rapidly proliferating NAS boxes, Acopia brings a sensible, elegant way to manage NAS capacity and has the switch smarts to implement tiered storage at the network layer.

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