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SD2003: NAS and gateways: Considerations for file storage

Confused about NAS gateways, or "heads" and how they can fit into your environment? In his recent Storage Decisions presentation, Randy Kerns, partner of The Evaluator Group, set the record straight on what a NAS gateway is, and where it fits into the overall IT infrastructure.

But before he launched into the pros and cons of the NAS gateway approach, Kerns laid out some basic principles surrounding file I/O, block I/O, and file systems. Along the way, he pointed out that ultimately, "NAS makes the file system remote," resolving a file "to a block address, just as if it were doing it locally."

According to Kerns, the best place for a NAS gateway is in an environment that already has an existing SAN in place. Given that, he cautioned that migrating NAS file services into a SAN environment would cause some changes. "Management is different now," he warned. One example is in managing backups, which now becomes the purview of the SAN manager. "When you talk about a gateway device, the boundaries are different and so are the politics," he said.

One point to consider when opting for NAS is how you will manage it. As a discrete device, the key selling point for NAS is how easy it is to manage. But as the number of NAS devices (or NAS gateways) in an organization grows, management can become tricky. As a final point, Kerns took time to give examples of different aggregation technologies currently being developed to ease NAS management.

Presentation slides

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and other links to the full session proceedings are available here.


About the speaker: With over 28 years experience in the development of storage products, The Evaluator Group's Storage Area Network and Network Attached Storage analysis Randy Kerns delivers is a natural fit for the Storage Decisions conference.

Mr. Kern's background includes a bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of Missouri at Rolla and a master's degree in computer engineering from the University of Colorado. He has worked for IBM, Fujitsu, as Vice President of Engineering at the Array Technology subsidiary of Tandem Computers and as Director of Engineering for Enterprise Disk at Storage Technology Corporation. Product development that Randy has been involved in includes both disk and tape subsystems for those companies.


This was first published in September 2003

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