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File services frenzy

File services frenzy

Storage vendors that have lagged behind in the NAS space are displaying sudden bursts of energy and playing catch-up. Last month, EMC updated an aging NAS gateway with the new Celerra NSX gateway, and IBM announced it would fill what Randy Kerns, senior partner at Evaluator Group Inc., Greenwood Village, CO, called "major holes in their product line-up" by entering into an OEM agreement with Network Appliance (NetApp), king of all things file-related. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) also jumped into the NAS market with a NAS blade for its virtualization platform, TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform (USP).

The Celerra NSX replaces the Celerra CNS platform introduced by EMC in 1996. Based on so-called X-Blades, the 2U NSX nodes can be clustered in groups of up to eight for aggregate performance of 300,000 NFS operations per second, and maximum capacity of 112TB. Thanks to new virtual file system technology, that capacity can be viewed as a single system.

The IBM/NetApp deal calls for IBM to OEM NetApp's entire product line, including its filers, high-capacity NearStore and V-Series, the recently revamped and rebranded version of the NetApp gFiler gateway. In practice, most observers predict IBM will focus on reselling NetApp NAS and iSCSI products, and not Fibre Channel versions of its arrays.

The IBM/NetApp alliance came directly on the heels of HDS' NAS blade announcement, which effectively supplants NetApp's gateway product gFiler that HDS had been reselling. According to Claus Mikkelsen, senior director of storage systems, the new NAS blade has "pretty much the same feature/functionality as gFiler," but will cost one-third the price (assuming you already have a USP).

Looking forward, yet another large system vendor with heretofore lackluster NAS offerings is expected to make some NAS news. Hewlett-Packard is due to announce its Enterprise File Services (EFS) family at its StorageWorks Conference scheduled to take place in Las Vegas this month.

Built on top of the same StorageGrid architecture behind HP's Reference Information Storage System and Scalable File System (SFS) products, EFS stands apart from other approaches to NAS in that you can easily add more nodes to the grid, and scale performance as your file serving needs increase--because you have more users or more capacity, explains Harry Baeverstad, director of NAS for HP's StorageWorks division. Furthermore, EFS nodes run Linux on top of commodity-based ProLiant servers for entry-level pricing "way under $100,000," Baeverstad says.

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