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Forget SAN and NAS - It's time to speak English

Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, Milford, Mass., says it's time for everyone to adjust their jargon. In a world of ever more confusing acronyms and buzzwords, the storage market seems to stand alone.

The problem with this space, says Duplessie, is that the acronyms we use have evolving definitions and within a year tend to be "worthless." SAN (storage area network) for example, is usually considered to be synonymous with block data over Fibre Channel. Instead, he argues, it should be thought of as simply networked block data devices.

With the advent of iSCSI and the oncoming Infiniband movement, Fibre Channel will simply become yet another transport for block data -- not the only transport. "I suggest," says Duplessie, "we simply call this 'networked storage,' then be specific as to our requirements -- either block, file (NAS), or both."

Not content with redefining the alpha of storage, Duplessie also argues that the omega -- NAS -- has the same issue. "It's thought of as file services via Ethernet," he says. That's true, he admits, but "in the more ambiguous 'networked storage' world, we will ultimately be passing file data around on the same wires as block - Fibre Channel, Ethernet, and Infiniband," he observes.

So, says Duplessie, "We suggest that in order to maintain your sanity, the industry ought to support the users by actually saying what they mean." But, maybe that's asking just a tad too much!

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the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, Mass.


This was first published in February 2001

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