Buying Guide

How to make the right NAS gateway purchasing decisions

Network attached storage (NAS) appliances typically contain their own internal storage resources. Storage capacity is expanded by simply adding more disks

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to the appliance. Obviously, this only allows users to scale up to the capacity limit of the appliance. NAS gateways overcome these inherent limitations of scale and flexibility by utilizing externally connected storage. In some cases, the external storage may be a standalone disk array. It's also common for a NAS gateway to share storage through a storage area network (SAN), allowing users to consolidate their NAS data on SAN storage and realize the benefits of high performance and redundancy. Major NAS vendors offer tools that can migrate data from NAS appliances to their NAS gateway products, which can also support all NAS protocols and many operating systems environments. Now that you've reviewed the essential issues involved in any NAS product, this Buying Guide focuses on specific considerations for NAS gateway products. You'll also find a series of specifications to help make on-the-spot product comparisons between vendors, like EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Corp. (HP), IBM, Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) and more.

Evaluate interoperability between the gateway and storage. Not all gateways work with every storage subsystem. This is particularly important if you're connecting to SAN storage. For example, the Bobcat Series NAS gateway from ONStor Inc. supports disk arrays from disk array vendors, including Hitachi Data Systems Inc. (HDS), EMC, IBM and HP. It's important to start by checking the vendor's compatibility matrix, but in-house testing is also strongly encouraged to verify compatibility.

Even NAS gateways have capacity limits. Even though a NAS gateway is intended to use external storage resources, there is still a finite limit that the gateway can address. For example, Hitachi NAS Blades can be clustered to support up to 512 terabytes (TB) per cluster. This isn't a problem for most organizations today, but potential storage limits should always be considered when planning a new gateway deployment.

Remember that some features move to the storage. By moving storage outside of the NAS gateway, remember that some features will be dependent on the storage subsystem(s) being used. For example, an NS700 series NAS gateway from EMC does not provide RAID or disk scrubbing, but the gateway supports Symmetrix and Clariion storage, which does include RAID and disk-scrubbing features. Changing storage platforms may add new features or remove existing features, and this can easily change the way that data is managed through the gateway. Storage administrators must consider how changes to the storage infrastructure will influence NAS capabilities.

Consider the connectivity. With external storage, connectivity is essential to ensure adequate performance across the user base. In most cases, you can expect an array of Ethernet and EMC Corp.; EMC Corp.; Celerra NS40G/NS80G NAS gateway

  • EMC Corp.; EMC Corp.; Celerra NSX NAS gateway
  • Hewlett-Packard Co.; HP StorageWorks EFS Clustered Gateway
  • IBM; N5000 Gateway
  • IBM; N7000 Gateway
  • Neopath Networks Inc.; File Director 220 gateway
  • Neopath Networks Inc.; File Director 7200 gateway
  • Network Appliance Inc.; V-Series NAS gateway
  • ONStor, Inc.; ONStor, Inc.; Bobcat Series NAS Gateway
  • Sun Microsystems Inc.; StorageTek 5320 NAS Gateway

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    This was first published in August 2007

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