NetApp moves toward blade architecture

By Lisa Coleman

With the recent release of its FAS200 "unified storage" system, Network Appliance is moving toward a blade architecture by packaging its operating system, storage controller, and software on a 9-inch card installed in a storage shelf.

"We've taken the first step in a blade architecture for storage systems," says Suresh Vasudevan, senior director of software at Network Appliance.

While blade architectures are a relatively new concept for storage, the server blade market has been growing steadily since 2001. Advantages include significant resource consolidation and cost savings.

But analysts note that Network Appliance's FAS200 is only a first step toward a true blade architecture. "Network Appliance's statement about blades really refers to the way they've packaged the controller card. It's just not in the same vein as a blade server," says Randy Kerns, a partner with the Evaluator Group consulting firm.

There are many different definitions of blades, according to Kerns. Typically, blades are plugged into the same chassis, and each blade may run different code and can be used interchangeably in other products. However, that is not the case with Network Appliance's "blade," says Kerns.

The FAS200 is the entry-level system in NetApp's FAS line, which also includes the higher-end FAS900. (The FAS200 can be upgraded to a FAS900.) The fabric-attached storage (FAS) devices combine network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) functionality in one box.

The FAS200 blade is essentially a NAS/SAN "shrunken head" with the intelligence packaged onto a 9-inch high board instead of a 5U- or 6U-high head. The FAS200 head plugs into a storage shelf and contains Network Appliance's DataOnTap software, management software, and the storage controller.

Network Appliance is targeting the FAS200 at remote offices and departments that need smaller form factors, centralized management, and 1TB to 3TB of starting capacities, says Vasudevan.

The FAS200 family includes the FAS250 and FAS270/270c, all of which come in a 3U form factor. The FAS250 includes support for the iSCSI, CIFS, NFS, and HTTP protocols, as well as a Fibre Channel tape port. It scales to 1TB and is priced from $10,000.

The FAS270 supports Fibre Channel as well as iSCSI, CIFS, NFS, and HTTP. The FAS270c is a clustered version with two "shrunken heads" in the same shelf. The FAS270 scales up to 4TB, with capacities starting at 500GB. The FAS270/270c will ship next month.

"We've taken a large head and created a small blade that has all the same capabilities. The next step is to aggregate multiple small blades into a filer," says Vasudevan.

Separately, Network Appliance also announced that its FAS products now support IBM AIX, HP-UX, and Linux, in addition to Solaris and Windows.

The company also enhanced its SnapLock software, which lets users support both WORM (write once, read many) and non-WORM functionality in one architecture. SnapLock Compliance is designed to protect records subject to government regulations from alteration during mandated retention periods. It was designed to comply with the SEC Rule 17a-4 regulations, but also can be used for enabling compliance with other regulations such as HIPAA, 21 CFR 11, and Sarbanes-Oxley.

SnapLock Enterprise is a new version of the software designed to protect important information that must remain unchanged for long periods of time. It enables volume deletion by a system administrator to purge entire collections of records to free up disk space. However, the software does not permit any alterations or deletion of individual WORM records.

This article was originally published on October 01, 2003