NetApp furthers 'storage-grid' vision

Posted on January 01, 2004

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By Lisa Coleman

Network Appliance is continuing to move forward with the storage grid strategy it outlined in November when it announced the acquisition of Spinnaker Networks. Its latest product releases support a storage-grid approach by leveraging the same architecture across product lines.

"We saw what was happening in the compute grid space and we matched it in the storage space. It's not about building the biggest box. It's about having components that work together so you can scale incrementally, both inside and outside the data center," says Mark Santora, senior vice president of marketing at Network Appliance.

The company is leveraging its high-end FAS architecture for its gFiler network-attached storage (NAS) gateway, a NAS "head" introduced about a year ago when Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) announced it would sell the gateway as a result of an OEM agreement. HDS resells the gateway, which plugs into back-end storage area networks (SANs), exclusively with support for its Thunder 9900 and Lightning 9500 arrays.

Network Appliance now plans to sell its gFiler with support for IBM's Shark and FAStT disk arrays; however, NetApp will not resell any IBM storage products. Network Appliance uses IBM Global Services to provide some support worldwide.

IBM will not resell NetApp's gFiler but will instead concentrate on its own NAS gateway—the 300G—according to IBM officials.

IBM was one of the first companies to offer a NAS gateway, a growing segment of the overall NAS market. A gateway is an attractive option for users due to its easy integration with back-end SAN storage, according to analysts.

Network Appliance's gFiler is available in several models—the GF960, GF950, and GF825—which are all based on its FAS products. The gFiler also is available in clustered versions that scale to 48TB. In addition to NAS protocols, all of the servers support iSCSI.

New load distribution software called SnapMover manages loads between gFilers connected to Fibre Channel SANs. The software can distribute data between gFilers without physical copying.

Network Appliance also added a new high-end server to its FAS line. The FAS980 and FAS980c (a clustered version) are 40% faster than the predecessor FAS960, according to company claims. The FAS980 scales to 64TB, compared to 48TB for the FAS960.

NetApp's FAS, NearStore, and gFiler are based on a common architecture and the proprietary Data ONTAP operating system. The company is banking on its single-architecture approach to lure users into grid storage.

The storage-grid vision comprises a cluster of multiple storage nodes managed as a single entity, allowing users to scale performance, availability, quality of service, and capacity on-the-fly and independently of each other without disrupting user applications.

Last month, Network Appliance also added the R200 to its ATA-based NearStore secondary storage appliances. The R200 scales from 8TB to 96TB and includes a 14-drive disk shelf with FC-SATA conversion and 320GB Serial ATA drives.

The company also enhanced its SnapVault 2.0 software (which stores snapshot copies from multiple heterogeneous storage devices to NearStore) to include support for Windows 2003, Linux, AIX, IRIX, and Solaris 9.


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