Why NAS protocols are the language of NAS

NAS protocols are the language of your NAS system, and understanding how they work is the key to operating a storage network. The main NAS protocols are CIFS and NFS, but iSCSI is gaining ground, and FCoE may be just around the corner.

Now that we have a handle on the interconnects, we will tackle NAS protocols. NAS protocols are the language of your NAS. Understanding how they work is key to running a successful storage network.

First up is CIFS, which stands for Common Internet File System. CIFS started out as Microsoft's Server Messaging Block Protocol, and was renamed as CIFS in 1996 by Microsoft. CIFS is one of the two most common protocols employed by NAS devices as Windows machines are used in the majority of environments that would deploy a NAS. You'll want to use this protocol in a Windows-heavy environment or when cross-platform compatibility is paramount. .

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The next most common protocol is NFS, which stands for Network File System. IBM and Sun joined forces to create NFS in 1984. NFS is gaining a strong following today among NAS vendors and users, due to the ease of use and performance it offers when coupled with a popular virtualization platform which in essence is storing its data at the file level and not the block level.

The next protocol is iSCSI, a relatively new protocol that offers block-level access to the storage in your NAS devices. The iSCSI protocol offers a relatively inexpensive way to offer block-level access to inexpensive hosts connected to GigE or 10 GigE using no special adapters or specialized software.

The new contender in the NAS protocols field is FCoE, which stands for Fibre Channel over Ethernet.. Although there aren't many actual FCoE deployments yet, or products that support it, it's worth watching because it marries two very prevalent interconnects and protocols: Fibre Channel and Ethernet.

About the author: Tory Skyers is a senior systems engineer for Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors, an independently owned and operated member of The Prudential Real Estate Affiliates Inc. He frequently speaks at conferences such as Storage Decisions and also contributes regularly to SearchStorage.com's blog called Storage Soup.

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This was first published in April 2008

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