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Are NAS and SAN heading for union?

By Alan Earls

With powerful advocates like Network Appliance, some see a merger of SAN and NAS on the horizon. -- sooner than you think.

Network Appliance, a leader in network-attached storage and storage area networking (with a claimed 60% of the NAS market share), is telling anyone who will listen about what they see as the impending convergence in technology between NAS and SAN. In particular, the company is among those advocating for some kind of open standards network. In the process, Network Appliance has garnered the support of other industry players such as Brocade, Veritas, Legato, Oracle, Intel, and several others to introduce initiatives to merge NAS and SAN.

For instance, Network Appliance is pushing for OSN (Open Storage Networking), an approach designed to accelerate the adoption of open storage networking solutions and further the maturity of current and future storage network architectures. The initial implementations of OSN are based on Gigabit and 10-Gigabit Ethernet technology, but, significantly, OSN includes Fibre Channel and InfiniBand storage networking, as well.

Network Appliance has also announced a NAS and SAN combined storage solution -- a Fibre Channel, SAN-based, shared tape backup system that supports Network Appliance storage appliances, and is managed by enterprise data storage software. Network Appliance announced this industry first with Quantum|ATL, Spectra Logic Corporation, Legato, VERITAS

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Software, and Vixel Corporation.

What's the bottom line significance of all this corporate posturing? Paul Hansen, senior director of product marketing at Network Appliance says, "SAN vs. NAS has become a religious discussion -- we want everyone to talk open storage...with luck and some industry support we will do it because it should benefit us, the industry, and our customers, alike."

"OSN in concept is a wonderful idea. Let's get together and make storage networks -- regardless of their makeup -- work... Tough to argue with," says Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at the Enterprise Storage Group, an analyst firm in Milford, Mass. Duplessie says he thinks Network Appliance wants to educate the world about the problems associated with traditional Fibre Channel SANs, and propagate the alternative message that IP (Ethernet) is the way to interconnect nirvana. "Are they right? You sure could make an argument in their favor," says Duplessie.

SAN/NAS convergence is on the horizon, agrees William Hurley, an analyst with Boston-based Yankee Group. However, he says it isn't as simple as one solution being better than another. "People are now recognizing that different data types need different storage and from that viewpoint, SAN can encompass NAS," he adds.

Additional resources:

For more information on SAN or NAS, see the following SearchStorage Editor's Picks pages:

Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, Mass.


This was first published in August 2000

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