Storage is a complex business -- and seemingly getting more complex. But suppose every file had a unique identifier that allowed you to access it -- like a Web site URL -- from anywhere on your network? Pie in the sky? Not quite. A number of companies are working on or already delivering solutions sometimes described as
In essence, these offerings take a vision of virtualization to a logical conclusion, making storage invisible to the user and much more manageable for those charged with running it.
Rahul Mehta, founder, president and CEO of NuView, and one of the main proponents of global namespace, says a namespace lets administrators aggregate file storage across heterogeneous, geographically distributed storage devices and treat them like a single file system. His company's NuView StorageX is file management software that does just that.
Mehta notes that data file systems are really a legacy product of the earliest computers when storage and computing was, by definition, centralized. That system, he argues, no longer reflects reality and is a major impediment to efficiency.
Now, administrators are confronted with storage systems that, even when networked, still look a lot like islands. Just as annoying, users must spend time mapping the shares they need to access data, adding time and complexity to their work.
Mehta proposes that the global namespace approach be widely adopted as a logical layer between clients and file servers that would rationalize an inherently irrational system. Version 3.0 of his StorageX enterprise file management software solution supports this approach, automates file storage management, and also provides multi-vendor NAS management.
"There has been a lot of research over the last 20 years into what many people would call distributed file systems," says Mehta. "Now, for the first time, storage is becoming the mainstream concern of the computing world as the amount of file systems explodes so now is the time to adopt a new approach," he adds.
"No one else [other than NuView] has been able to create a single unified namespace, certainly not heterogeneously, on open systems platforms," says Steve Duplessie, analyst at the Enterprise Storage Group. "It's a pretty big deal," he adds. Duplessie says companies that have adopted NetApp products always praise them but do complain about the complexity that comes with managing files on multiple boxes. Thus, NetApp's adoption of Storage X should be the answer to their prayers.
"What they hate is migrating users and data from one machine to a new machine," he says. It's time consuming manual labor and users hate it as well," he says. NuView eliminates those problems. "I think the stuff is killer, it is file based, not block, so it seems to fit with anyone's block virtualization stuff," he adds. Duplessie also notes that Mehta himself has a strong track record, having sold previous products to Veritas and HP.
Randy Kerns, analyst at the Evaluator Group, says NuView StorageX is a good idea and a smart extension of Microsoft DFS. But he points out that a similar tack is being taken by another company, 1Vision Software from Ft. Collins, CO. According to 1Vision their storage management software aggregates multiple servers at the file systems level so they behave like a single server over a local area network. Installing on each server, vSERV aggregates file-server storage into a single pool, making all unutilized space available to all users.
By linking multiple, disparate file servers into a single storage pool while leaving the servers in place users can interact with one storage pool rather than multiple, separate servers, according to the company. The resulting single-storage environment that vSERV creates lets users manage it as a single environment potentially simplifying networked storage and increasing storage utilization and efficiency.
"This really isn't a virtualization technique but a global distributed file system," adds Kerns.
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- Alan Earls often writes about things NAS and SAN the "SAN/NAS Update: Trends" column. View the latest
About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, MA.
This was first published in June 2003