By Heidi Biggar
1Vision believes the answer to the management crisis facing Windows-based file-server and network-attached-storage (NAS) users lies with its distributed networked file-aggregation software: vNAS Pro/Enterprise. The software is one of several virtualization products being developed by a handful of vendors that specifically address the NAS market.
According to Strategic Research Corp., a Santa Barbara, CA, research firm, management of independent storage and file-server islands is consistently the number-one pain point in the data center. The issue end users face is not just managing these islands of data, but managing them cost-effectively.
"Adding NAS devices is easy at first," explains Kelsey T. Kennedy, vice president of sales and marketing at 1Vision, "but suddenly you've got 10 of these devices, and you've got files to move around, clients to re-map, etc. It's chaos."
The problem with these types of environments, says Kennedy, is they are difficult to manage, have high administration costs, aren't scalable, and don't make maximum use of storage resources in distributed environments.
"If we assume Microsoft SAK [Server Appliance Kit] will proliferate--and there's no reason to think it won't--then there's going to be a lot of these devices around," says Arun Taneja, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group, in Milford, MA. "The question is who is going to solve the management problem."
By aggregating NAS resources into a single, logical storage device and storage volume, Kennedy claims vNAS can lower end-user NAS administration costs by an average of 50%.
According to Strategic Research, file aggregation can lower management costs by $4,000 per server per year and total cost of ownership (TCO) by 70%, compared to stand-alone NAS.
Analysts expect Windows-based NAS devices to continue to penetrate entry-level and midrange markets. According to International Data Corp., Microsoft and its OEM partners captured 25% of the market in less than a year (see Windows grabs NAS market share).
1Vision says that while its initial product is specific to Windows, the company plans to port the software to Unix and Linux environments. The vNAS road map does not currently include support for either EMC or Network Appliance NAS filers.
The key to vNAS is the company's five-year-old, patented persistent file system (PFS). Initially developed to help end users keep track of files on removable media, PFS is an optimized b-tree database that runs at the kernel level and supports more than 4 billion objects and some basic policy-making capabilities. It runs in parallel with a device's own file system.
The only drawback from an administrative point of view, says Taneja, is that PFS must be installed on every NAS server.
vNAS is priced on a per-server basis and ranges from $700 to $5,000. File-level access, aggregation, volume spanning, and load balancing are included. Optional "plug-ins" include the enterprise console, migration daemon, back-channel access, block-level access, multi-device mirroring with software fail-over, remote access, and provisioning and billing.