TrueSAN fuses SAN and NAS

Posted on June 01, 2001

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BY HEIDI BIGGAR

TrueSAN says its recently announced Paladin C-series is not just about virtualization; it's also about unified storage area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) support, scalability, and management. The two-year-old San Jose, CA-based start-up, which describes itself as a network storage, system, and software company-and not a virtualization vendor-began shipping Paladin in mid-April.

"It's a common misunderstanding that we're all about virtualization," says Tom Isakovich, president and CEO at TrueSAN. "It is a component of our software capability, but we are not a virtualization company like DataCore or StoreAge." Rather, TrueSAN considers its primary competitors to be EMC, with its Clariion FC/IP4700 and Symmetrix 8000 families, and Network Appliance with its F840 NAS appliances.

Paladin is available in two models-the C30 and C60-which are largely differentiated by their processing capability, cache, and availability features. Both systems integrate the company's MetaFabric architecture for scalability, FusionOS software for unified SAN/NAS support, and Alchemy software for management.

Unlike traditional storage devices with bus-based approaches, the C-series is built on a distributed switching platform currently based on commodity technologies from QLogic. "This allows us to get scalability-hundreds of terabytes in a single system-while keeping pricing aggressive and implementation costs low," says Isakovich. The C30 and C60 systems are priced from $129,000 and $239,000, respectively.

Unlike EMC's "Chameleon" product (Clariion FC4700/IP 4700), Paladin has a unified back-end with a single storage pool, explains Isakovich. "We have one common virtual pool that can be provisioned for both SAN and NAS. Chameleon, in contrast, is somewhat of a misnomer: It's either SAN or NAS."

The Paladin architecture allows hosts to mount both SAN and NAS volumes at the same time. "It can re-provision between SAN or NAS on-the-fly, which is where virtualization comes in," says Isakovich. For virtualization, TrueSAN licensed technology from StoreAge. On the NAS side, TrueSAN licensed Microsoft's Server Appliance Kit. The "glue" between the two is TrueSAN's FusionOS software.

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Isakovich says TrueSAN opted to do virtualization out of the data path because that approach is fundamentally more scalable than in-band methods. As for issues with security and quality-of-service (QoS) common with out-of-band approaches, TrueSAN claims it has solved these issues by implementing its own Alchemy management software.

Described as a combination resource management/SAN device management tool, Alchemy provides rogue server control, as well as fabric management, NAS management, snapshot functionality, etc. (see chart).

"Alchemy is written to an API level, which give us a lot of power, including rogue server control," says Isakovich. In contrast, other vendors' products, such as Veritas SANPoint Control or SANavigator are MIB managers, provide a very high-level logical view, but are not as good at doing low-level device management, Isakovich claims.

TrueSAN is currently working with other switch vendors such as Brocade to integrate their switching platforms. Outside the box, Paladin supports a variety of vendors' products, including those from Brocade, Gadzoox, McData, QLogic, and Vixel. And Paladin supports multi-vendor storage systems. "Paladin will 'virtualize,' and Alchemy will manage, anything with a Fibre Channel connection that presents a SCSI LUN," says Isakovich. That list currently includes products from Compaq, Dot Hill, EMC (Clariion), MTI, and Sun.

The Paladin C30 has two processors, 2GB of cache, four dual-port Fast Ethernet ports or two single-port Gigabit Ethernet ports for I/O traffic, as well as a single 100BaseT management port. The C60 has four processors, 4GB of cache, four single-port Gigabit Ethernet ports, and dual 100BaseT management ports. Both models feature hot-swappable power, cooling, and disk drives. The C60 also features internal RAID-1 mirrored disk.


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