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Linux, open source SAN/NAS environment getting richer

By Alan Earls

In August 2000, Sunnyvale-based VA Linux, a hardware, software, and service provider for the Linux market, introduced its first network-attached storage (NAS) solution: The VA Linux 9205 NAS system, a 3.5-inch-high storage appliance. According to VA Linux, the product is scalable to 2.1T Bytes in an ultra-dense, 8U form factor, and provides over 10T Bytes in a standard 42U rack.

This type of network file-sharing solution is being targeted at e-businesses in ISP data centers. The VA Linux 9205 NAS also offers file-sharing capabilities across multiple platforms -- including Linux, UNIX, Microsoft Windows and the Mac OS. This file-sharing ability allows for transparent file access in heterogeneous network environments.

Is VA Linux alone in linking Linux and NAS? Not in the eyes of Enterprise Storage Group (Milford, Mass) Senior Analyst Steve Duplessie. "Linux is a great alternative to a real time OS [operating system] for a NAS device, since it is a full OS that is streamlined to begin with and has a million free developers," he noted. "I expect to see Hewlett Packard introduce a Linux NAS box, along with a slew of others soon," he added.

Nor is NAS the only area of the storage world where the open source movement is having an impact. For instance, later this month, the 2nd Annual Linux Storage Management Workshop will be held in Miami (October 15-19) at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami. Topics slated for coverage include: Logical Volume Management, Advanced File Systems, and Storage Area Networks.

Thomas Coughlin, an analyst with Peripheral Concepts, Inc., of Santa Barbara, Calif., rates the whole open source movement as significant for storage. "Linux may allow a more standardized, open architecture for storage and may allow new storage concepts to come to the fore -- such as object-based drives -- which could blur the distinction between SAN and NAS," he added.

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About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, Mass.

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