NAS + SAN: The best of both worlds

Posted on August 01, 2001

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Recently, it has been politically correct for vendors to say that network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) are complementary. Although that's true in some circumstances, in more cases they are clearly competitive, presenting IT managers with an either/or decision.

Generally, if you can achieve adequate performance from file-level transfers over IP networks, then NAS gives you a lower cost of entry and easier setup and administration. SANs, on the other hand, provide higher performance and more-flexible scalability, at considerably higher cost and complexity. Meanwhile, direct-attached storage still accounts for the lion's share of storage shipments.

But what if vendors could merge the respective benefits of NAS and SAN? That would change the whole equation, and that's the subject of our Special Report this month.

We kick off our coverage with an independent analyst's view. The Aberdeen Group's Dan Tanner describes the two architectures and their respective benefits as well as what an "ideal" NAS-SAN device would do. He wraps it up with a look at what a dozen vendors are doing to fuse the two architectures into a single architecture.

It's important to note that none of the vendors have truly merged NAS and SAN-yet. But in the near future, IT managers may not have to wrestle with the NAS or SAN dilemma.

We round out our coverage with views on NAS-SAN convergence from a third-party storage integrator and a vendor that is developing a product that can handle either file-level NAS traffic or block-level SAN I/O. Datalink's Tom Sylvester reviews the respective benefits of NAS and SAN and, instead of previewing products that actually merge the two architectures, looks at the benefits of extending SANs with NAS devices and vice versa.

Finally, Pirus Networks' Steve Marchesano discusses the limitations of "first-generation" storage networking and outlines what's required in next-generation approaches. His view converges NAS, SAN, and IP storage. As in the other two articles, the emphasis is on business benefits.

Also in this issue ...

Is the storage service provider (SSP) model dead? No (although a few SSPs have already bitten the dust), but it's changing. To better meet the needs of what end users actually need, most "pure-play" SSPs are moving away from the storage "utility" model to providing managed services. For more information, see senior editor Lisa Coleman's cover story.

Another hyped storage trend-virtualization-is garnering a lot of attention, at least in the vendor community. But do end users really need it? In another cover story this month, senior editor Heidi Biggar looks at the storage virtualization issue from the view of independent analysts, with an eye on giving you an idea of whether you really need virtualization.

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Dave Simpson, Editor-in-Chief

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