Appliances ease SAN implementation, management

Posted on July 01, 2000


By Dave Simpson

A growing number of vendors are jumping on the SAN appliance bandwagon. These hardware-software devices, sometimes referred to as storage domain managers, are designed to simplify building and managing heterogeneous storage area networks by creating a virtual storage pool.

"Virtualizing all storage on the back end allows you to use any vendor's subsystem and to create a single storage pool, so you have investment protection," says Steve Duplessie, senior analyst with The Enterprise Storage Group, in Milford, MA. "And SAN appliances handle all the LUN masking/mapping functions, so you can use heterogeneous hosts on the SAN."

The list of SAN appliance vendors includes companies such as Compaq, DataCore Software, DataDirect Networks, Dell, StorageApps, StoreAge, and Veritas Software. (For more information on Veritas and Compaq, see related story on this page.)

Following on the heels of DataCore's release of its SAN symphony software (InfoStor, May, p. 10), a number of vendors have jumped into the market for SAN appliances.

Recent entrants include Gadzoox Networks and TrueSAN Networks, both of which are bundling DataCore's SANsymphony code with Windows NT platforms.

One of the primary benefits of SAN appliances is that they allow IT managers to consolidate servers and storage subsystems by "virtualizing" the storage into a common pool. SAN appliances can be used with any vendor's storage subsystems. Other potential advantages include centralized, simplified management of SAN resources; increased SAN performance via appliance caching; simplified backup; and a reduction in management costs and personnel.

Gadzoox is bundling DataCore's SANsymphony with a high-availability NT server and QLogic host bus adapters, a connectivity kit, and Gadzoox's 8-port and 32-port Capellix Fibre Channel switches. The company refers to the configurations as the Axxess Networked Storage Pool. Gadzoox does not include storage subsystems in its configurations.

Gadzoox added event management functionality to SANsymphony. The event manager detects faults and sends fault information to a management console.

An Axxess 200 configuration with a Capellix 2000 Fibre Channel switch and an Axxess Engine with 528MB of cache and storage pooling software is priced starting at $50,000. Prices range up to $125,000 for fully redundant configurations with Capellix 3000 switches and 2GB of cache memory.

According to Erik Ottem, the Axxess line is part of Gadzoox's ongoing expansion beyond its Fibre Channel hubs and switches. Gadzoox is also partnering with Lucent and other vendors to develop a standard for the transmission of Fibre Channel traffic over IP networks such as Gigabit Ethernet (InfoStor, June, p. 1).

Like Gadzoox, TrueSAN is bundling SANsymphony with an NT server (with up to ten Fibre Channel ports), providing device virtualization and storage domain management. However, TrueSAN claims to have added functionality in the areas of adaptive caching. In addition, according to president and CEO Tom Isakovich, TrueSAN's SANengine platform supports block services (for Fibre Channel-based SAN connectivity) as well as file services (for Ethernet NAS-style transfers, with support for the NFS and CIFS protocols).

Isakovich says that TrueSAN hopes to differentiate its SAN appliance on the pricing front. An entry-level SANengine for workgroups, in a 2U form factor, is priced at $10,000. Prices range up to $250,000.

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