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IT Says Yes to NAS Gateways

NAS gateways embraced

Among enterprise customers seeking file storage, network-attached storage (NAS) gateways--rather than standalone NAS devices--are gaining popularity. Gartner forecasts that gateways will grow from less than 2000 units in 2003 to 4700 units in 2007, with revenue increasing from less than $120 million to $195 million.

IBM seems to have taken this news to heart, and introduced the TotalStorage NAS 500. It fronts IBM's Enterprise Storage Server (Shark), FastT and any non-IBM storage hardware resident behind its Storage Volume Controller (SVC) virtualization appliance. Based on a PowerPC processor and AIX, it offers 600% the NFS performance and 50% the CIFS performance of its NAS 300, a Windows-based gateway that IBM will discontinue this month.

IBM's David Vaughn, worldwide NAS product manager, says his customers aren't interested in "point products"--i.e., standalone NAS arrays. And if they don't have a SAN? No problem. Just connect the NAS gateway and the SAN array with a direct Fibre Channel connection. "You don't in any way need a fabric," Vaughn says.

Third-party vendors also sell NAS gateways for IBM storage, notably Network Appliance, whose gFiler recently achieved IBM TotalStorage Proven status, as did the SF4400 SAN Filer from ONStor.

EMC is also following the NAS gateway path--or rather, its customers are. According to Chuck Hollis, EMC vice president of platforms marketing, "on the back end of 2003 we saw our gateway business absolutely spike." As a result, EMC's new philosophy is to make NAS in the form of "gateways, or gateway-capable." Case in point, EMC's new NS700 is composed of a Clariion CX700 and an NS700G gateway, which can be de-aggregated at will.

NetApp's position on NAS gateways is a bit more delicate, as it has a vital standalone NAS business. But according to Ed Chow, NetApp director of product marketing for platforms and systems software, the company has seen a strong demand for its gFiler, and is actively looking to qualify it with additional arrays.

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