Network Appliance introduces new solutions

Network Appliances several new features

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On May 7, 2001 Network Appliance made several announcements that were significant for network storage. Network Appliance has aimed the new solutions at enterprise environments and is specifically targeting total cost of ownership issues. The individual features announced were:

  • DataFabric Manager Software
  • Fibre Channel Fabric SAN Tape Backup
  • DiskShelf14 -- Rack Mount Enclosure of Disk Drives
  • SecureShare Quota Manager v2
  • SnapManager 1.1 for Exchange

Announcement highlights

The Network Appliance announcements on May 7, 2001 were varied in nature. They range from server-based management software to a new physical package of disk drives. The prior announcements from Network Appliance were for two new models of filer appliances. While these announcements aren't for new filers, they enhance the operational (and cost) aspects of the Network Appliance filers and network caches. Since these announcements are in different areas, each needs to be discussed separately.

DataFabric Manager software

DataFabric Manager is server-based software to centrally monitor and remotely configure NAS and network caching appliances from Network Appliance. The software uses a web-based GUI that is available for access across the network to provide a unified view of all filers and network caches (only from Network Appliance) in a network. With this tool, a storage administrator can do analysis of storage capacity utilization and performance levels on all the Network Appliance devices.

The target problem to be solved with the DataFabric Manager software is to reduce administrative costs where there are multiple Network Appliance products in a network. Traditionally, these devices were administered separately and there was no unified view of the storage provided. DataFabric Manager goes a long way towards solving these problems and greatly reducing the cost of administration. The information available from DataFabric Manager includes:

  • Status
  • Capacity utilization
  • Events
  • NAS appliances and OS versions
  • Volumes/file systems
  • Disks

DataFabric Manager supports Windows NT 4.0 and will support Windows 2000, Sun Solaris, HP-UX, and Linux in subsequent releases.

Evaluator Group comments

An aggregator for management of NAS (and network caches) is a very good idea. It makes easily quantifiable reductions in administrative costs. Network Appliance has created a product that is destined to become a necessity for their customers. Evaluator Group believes that a product that manages heterogeneous NAS appliances to the same degree that DataFabric Manager does for Network Appliance would be an immensely valuable product as well.

Fibre Channel fabric SAN tape backup

Network Appliance now offers full fabric support for tape backup of Network Appliance filers across a SAN. With a large set of partners, Network Appliance has tested and certified products to perform the backup across a SAN with Fibre Channel fabric topology. The benefits of using a Fibre Channel fabric SAN tape backup of the information on a Network Appliance filer are:

  • Utilize the performance characteristics of a Fibre Channel based SAN
  • Availability designed into a SAN
  • Scalability designed into a SAN
  • Tested and supported configurations.

A variety of configurations are supported with up to 64 tape drives and 16 possible media changers with data coming from up to 15 filers. Tape devices may be shared between the filers. The solutions will be sold through Network Appliance partners.

The partners providing data protection solutions that have been tested and certified include ATL, BakBone Software, Brocade, CommVault, Legato, Quadratec, Spectra Logic, StorageTek, Syncsort, VERITAS, and Workstation Solutions.

Evaluator Group comments

This is another very wise move by Network Appliance. As NAS devices have grown in capacity, backup has become a major problem. Taking advantage of the enterprise capabilities in a Fibre Channel SAN makes perfect sense. Again, administration cost and the cost of doing the backup are the critical problems being addressed. The partners that have been tested are many of the major players in backup and SAN connectivity.

DiskShelf14 -- Rack mount enclosure of disk drives

Network Appliance has announced a new disk shelf to add storage to the filers. The DiskShelf14 is a rack mount enclosure that can contain up to 14 Fibre Channel disk drives in a 3U high package. 18, 36, and 72 GB disk drives are supported. Using the 72 GB drives, a raw capacity of 1 TB can be installed with each DiskShelf14. Compared to the prior disk enclosure, the new disk shelf includes status monitoring and reporting capabilities, more integrated components resulting in fewer FRUs with improved inherent reliability, and a much denser storage footprint.

Evaluator Group comments

This is a logical progression for Network Appliance to continue improvements in packaging. Volume is the key element to drive down costs and with the changeover to this new, dense package for all filer attached storage, the customer should benefit beyond just the technical aspects.

SecureShare Quota Manager v2

SecureShare is a software management tool for Windows NT/2000 that provides a GUI to centrally manage and control hard and soft disk quota for NT/2000 users and Qtrees on Network Appliance filers. The software is run on server and allows system administrators to set and monitor quotas on users and Qtree quotas. The embedded operating system in the Network Appliance filers, Data ONTAP, does the enforcement of the quotas. The SecureShare Quota Manger software is used to set up the controlling information. This product will be available in June 2001.

SnapManager 1.1 for Exchange

This announcement is for a new version of the SnapManager software that works with Microsoft Exchange to do point-in-time copies. This version improves on the time required for online backup and recovery to make it nearly instantaneous and adds support for Windows 2000.

Evaluator Group comments

The Network Appliance announcements bring some very valuable features to customers. All of the announcements have some bearing on administrative cost and should be easy to calculate the return on investment. The more significant thing for the Evaluator Group is the recognition by Network Appliance that there is significant value in the centralized management and the utilization of capabilities in an enterprise SAN environment with the filers. With these announcements, Network Appliance has demonstrated that the leader in Network Attachment Storage is targeting to enhance capabilities for operation in the enterprise space. =================================================
To view another analysis and commentary in this month's review series from the Evaluator Group, go to http://www.searchStorage.com/tip/1,289483,sid5_gci557275,00.html =================================================


This was first published in June 2001

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