Network Appliance enters SAN market

By Lisa Coleman

Network Appliance recently entered the storage area network (SAN) market with the FAS900—a fabric-attached storage device that combines network-attached storage (NAS) and SAN functionality in one box.

The FAS900 allows for simultaneous block- and file-level transport via Fibre Channel and IP. Also, NetApp's storage management and other software products—such as SnapMirror and SnapRestore—initially created for NAS will work with the FAS900.

"NetApp has very good software tools for NAS, and they've brought those same tools over to the SAN side. That's one of their advantages," says Arun Taneja, an analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group. Traditionally, companies employing both NAS and SAN have had to use two separate sets of software tools. Using only one set provides a competitive advantage for Network Appliance, he says.

The FAS900 family is available in two models—FAS940 and FAS960, as well as clustered versions—and scales from 200GB to 48TB. The server includes an updated version of NetApp's Data ONTAP micro-kernel. The high-end, clustered FAS960c scales to 48TB, has dual Fibre Channel connections, supports NetApp's RAID architecture and local synchronous mirroring, uses PCI-X expansion slots, and has InfiniBand as the cluster interconnect (see "NetApp gives InfiniBand a boost").

To achieve the SAN/NAS functionality, NetApp created a LUN semantic at the same layer as its file semantics (i.e., the LUN semantic is not built on top of the file system), explains Mark Santora, senior vice president of marketing at Network Appliance. On top of the LUN semantics are the Fibre Channel and iSCSI protocols.

"You can write a database via blocks in a Fibre Channel connection, and you can access that same database via IP using an Ethernet connection," says Santora. "It's a unified system where the information can be accessed by either the Fibre Channel or IP side."

While Network Appliance is the first company to offer this type of functionality in one box, according to analysts, many other vendors are converging NAS and SAN in different ways (see "Who needs NAS-SAN convergence?", InfoStor, October 2002, p. 24).

In the past, most NAS-SAN convergence has been achieved via NAS heads attached to a SAN back-end, such as EMC's Celerra hooked up to a Symmetrix array. However, one drawback to this approach is that the NAS head can only be attached to the same vendor's arrays. (One exception is Auspex's NSc3000 controller gateway, which provides a NAS head that can connect to a variety of vendors' SAN arrays.)

On the heels of NetApp's FAS900 announcement, start-up LeftHand Networks began offering the ability to handle both block- and file-level data simultaneously in its Network Storage Module (NSM) 100. Other start-ups are expected to follow suit over the next several months.

In addition to the FAS900, NetApp introduced the F825, a refresh of the F820 NAS appliance, and a 7TB version of its NearStore R100 disk-to-disk backup device.

The FAS900, F880, and F825 will be integrated with Brocade's SilkWorm 3200 and 3800 Fibre Channel switches.

The FAS900 has been included on Microsoft's Hardware Compatibility List in the storage/RAID category. In addition, Windows users who have NetApp hardware can use NuView's StorageX, a virtual file manager that enables aggregation and centralized management of network file storage.

NetApp has also announced new software products, including DataFabric Manager 2.1, SnapDrive 2.0, Virtual File Manager (VFM), and SyncMirror. DataFabric Manager 2.1 manages the FAS900, NetCache, and NearStore products.

This article was originally published on November 01, 2002