NeoPath, Acopia upgrade NFM

By Dave Simpson and Ann Silverthorn

NeoPath Networks and Acopia Networks recently added features to their network file management (NFM) product lines. For example, NeoPath last month began shipping its second-generation NFM appliance, the FD-220 File Director, which the company claims provides a 3x performance boost over its FD-200 predecessor.

Although actual I/O performance depends on a number of factors, the FD-200 was rated at 1Gbps, while the FD-220 provides 3.5Gbps (or 7Gbps aggregate throughput bi-directionally). In some cases, such as with jumbo frames, the FD-220 can provide as much as 10Gbps aggregate throughput, according to Dan Liddle, senior director of marketing and business development at NeoPath.

NeoPath competes primarily with Acopia, NuView, and Rainfinity in the NFM market, which is sometimes referred to as NAS, or file, virtualization.

The performance improvements in NeoPath’s FD-220 are attributable primarily to software tuning, including the addition of multi-threading code. Only about 20% of the performance boost is attributable to hardware enhancements, according to Liddle. NeoPath’s appliances combine NFM software with an Intel-based server platform. The 2U FD-220 appliance is based on dual Xeon CPUs.

NeoPath claims to be unique among NFM vendors with its combination of real-time file characterization, policy-based file management, non-disruptive file migration, and namespace virtualization.

In addition, NeoPath entered into a reseller partnership with SANZ, a storage consulting and integration firm based in Englewood, CO.

NeoPath’s NFM appliances can be used with existing file servers and NAS systems, and are typically used for NAS consolidation and creating tiered storage architectures.

Pricing for the FD-220 appliances ranges from $39,995 for a single node to $69,995 for a two-node, high-availability clustered configuration.

NFM is a term coined by the Taneja Group storage consulting firm. Taneja considers the following functions to be part of the definition of NFM: heterogeneous unified namespace, dynamic access paths, native data formats, individual file controls, and centralized management.

Acopia Networks, which is NeoPath’s most direct competitor, also recently upgraded its file virtualization platforms. The 2.0 version of Acopia’s operating system for its Adaptive Resource Switch (ARX) series of file virtualization switches includes enhanced global namespace capabilities, non-disruptive fail-over between data centers, clustering for real-time load distribution, and new management tools.

The new release features Global File Network Services, which provides multi-switch and multi-site global namespace capabilities with an enterprise-wide view of file data. It also provides non-disruptive fail-over.

The performance load-balancing feature solves the “hot-filer” problem in which a very large amount of I/Os hits a single NAS device at once, potentially creating a bottleneck. Acopia’s ARX platform load-balances the application across multiple filers to avoid bottlenecks.

The 1U ARX500, 2U ARX1000, and 13U ARX6000 switches cost $25,000, $55,000, and $150,000, respectively.

This article was originally published on September 01, 2005