By Heidi Biggar
1Vision believes the answer to the management problems facing Windows-based file-server and network-attached-storage (NAS) users lies with its distributed file-aggregation software: vNAS Pro/Enterprise. The software is one of several virtualization products under development 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 data centers. The issue end users face is not just managing the 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 a lot of these devices, and you have to move files around, re-map clients, 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's SAK [Server Appliance Kit] will proliferateand there's no reason to think it won'tthen 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 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 (see figure).
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," InfoStor, April 2002, p. 14).
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 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 four billion objects and some basic policy-making capabilities. It runs in parallel with a device's own file system (such as NTFS).
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, ranging 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.
File aggregation can reduce management costs by $4,000 per server per year by consolidating servers into one management pool.