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Maxtor sees PC-like ubiquity for NAS in future

By Alan Earls

Network-attached storage (NAS) is a rapidly growing competitor to storage area networks (SAN) -- in a competition that can sometimes seem like a bitter religious war. However, this fast-emerging category can still coexist with SANs as a component of the overall network solution.

Maxtor, a storage solution provider with its roots in PC-oriented products, manufactures a family of MaxAttach NAS server appliances. Don Wood, director of product marketing for Maxtor, says NAS offers many benefits over SANs -- providing a fast and affordable path to add virtually unlimited back-end storage quickly and easily. Furthermore, he says, it is accessible by PCs, laptops and servers attached to the network.

"The core competency that Maxtor offers is disk drives plus the software for NAS implementations," says Wood. He notes that Maxtor's offerings are solidly focused on the needs of the SME market with desktop models that range in capacity from 40-120 gigabytes and rack-mounted models with capacities of between 80 and 240 gigabytes. However, he stresses, NAS is friendly to a modular approach -- allowing the addition of multiple units to handle more storage.

Wood is careful to stress that while he is a NAS enthusiast, he sees a vital and continuing role for SAN products in enterprise and mission-critical roles where access times are crucial. But, for his money, NAS is the proper building block material for most storage

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needs. "NAS can aggregate storage cost-effectively and extend the life of application servers," he adds.

As a general rule, agrees Steve Duplessie, analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group, Milford, Mass., NAS is ideal for file data and SAN (direct-attached storage) for block data. SME will continue to use NAS more often, he adds, because it's easier. "Larger enterprises need both because they will also need direct, block-level access," he says.

Where things get fuzzy is in the future, he says. iSCSI is a standard (under submission) to allow for block data to be transported over IP networks (only file data is transferred today over IP networks). "That means users will be able to create SANs out of standard networks - which means sooner or later we'll stop talking about SAN vs. NAS altogether -- it will be the same thing." he adds.

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This was first published in August 2000

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