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Compellent zNAS adds ZFS multiprotocol storage access to Storage Center SANs

Compellent is adding a zNAS multiprotocol storage option to its StorageCenter SAN based on Oracle/Sun's ZFS, with deeper integration into the disk array than its previous NAS gateway based on Windows Storage Server.

Compellent Technologies Inc. today rolled out a new multiprotocol storage option called Compellent zNAS to its Storage Center SAN, adding file-based access to the Fibre Channel (FC) and iSCSI-based disk array without requiring multiple provisioning steps.

Compellent has offered file-based access to its Storage Center SAN through a gateway based on Microsoft's Windows Storage Server, which was managed separately from the back-end SAN and required multiple provisioning steps on the gateway server and back-end disk array to set up NAS volumes.

The new device, based on Sun Microsystems Inc.'s' Zettabyte File System (ZFS) will support active-active failover with multipathing between two Compellent zNAS nodes, while expanding the centralized SAN/NAS storage pool without downtime, Compellent claims. zNAS is also integrated with Storage Center SAN's data management features, including automated tiered storage, thin provisioning and boot from SAN. Compellent zNAS will support Windows, Unix, Linux and Solaris clients. zNAS connects through Gigabit Ethernet on the front end and 8 Gbps FC on the back; 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) connectivity is planned.

The Compellent zNAS file server is integrated into the Storage Center SAN chassis, and customers can provision and manage NAS volumes in one step through a single interface, according to Bob Fine, Compellent's director of product marketing. "This is more deeply integrated than the Windows gateway, and the hardware has also been updated to the latest Nehalem processors," Fine said.

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While the Compellent zNAS server is in the same rack as the rest of the disk trays and controller modules that make up the Storage Center SAN, they're two separate physical devices.

Competitors with combined SAN/NAS access at the controller may question whether this truly fits the definition of multiprotocol storage, but "customers want a consistent interface — to them, that's what they see as unified," Fine said.

Compellent customer Kevin Fitzpatrick, IT director at San Diego-based ROEL Construction Co., said he agreed with that definition of multiprotocol storage. Fitzpatrick said he looked at the Windows gateway from Compellent approximately 18 months ago, but didn't buy because of the lack of unified management.

"I talked to them at great length about it," he said. "But a secondary server wasn't the way I wanted to go — there didn't seem to be a good methodology for failover or clustering the NAS device before."

Though ZFS was originally developed by Sun (which is now owned by Oracle Corp.), Compellent will support zNAS and Storage Center SAN together. A new Storage Center SAN with zNAS starts at approximately $84,000 with two clustered zNAS nodes, two clustered SAN controllers, 8.7 TB of SAS storage capacity, as well as thin provisioning, automated tiered storage, snapshots, replication and storage resource management licenses. For current Compellent SAN customers, pricing starts at $36,000 -- excluding maintenance and services -- to add two clustered zNAS nodes. zNAS isn't available as a standalone NAS system.

"I would really like to see them just include it in the base storage offering," Fitzpatrick said, but he finds the ability to keep up with growing unstructured data without a forklift upgrade valuable nonetheless. "Having a truly integrated block-level storage system that can also support the NAS shares at the same time is becoming more important and necessary in a business environment. It appears that the Compellent zNAS can help us do this more effectively without having to forklift upgrade our storage system to a different vendor."

Terri McClure, a senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, said zNAS will keep Compellent current with industry trends. "They have their eye on the right goal, simplifying the data center," she said. "Storage has grown more complex and difficult to use in the last 30 years, but there's a movement afoot toward simplicity."

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