Users moving toward NAS virtualization

To improve performance and ease management headaches,end users are virtualizing NAS environments.

By Farid Neema and Tom Coughlin

An end-user survey conducted by Peripheral Concepts and Coughlin Associates, 2005 NAS and NAS Virtualization Report, targeted IT organizations with at least one NAS system and a minimum of 1TB of raw disk storage. More than 2,000 qualified respondents answered a screening survey, and a selected population of 135 IT administrators and managers answered the full survey.

The 2,111 IT sites totaled 679 petabytes of disk storage and 4,690 NAS systems. About two-thirds of the sites had more than 25TB of total disk capacity, which compares to 50% in our 2004 survey and 40% in our 2003 survey. The figure, below, shows the capacity ranges at the surveyed companies.

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Sites with more than 10 NAS systems represented about 25% of the survey population, compared to 20% in our 2004 survey and 15% in our 2003 survey. And about 33% of the population had more than one-third of its disk capacity in NAS configurations, compared to 25% in 2004 and 16% in 2003. All of these statistics point to rapid growth in the NAS market.

Management challenges

Data protection and coping with growing storage capacity are at the top of IT managers’ storage management challenges.

More than half of the surveyed sites suffer from performance bottlenecks, reflecting the increased complexity of storage environments and the need for additional management tools. As a key enabler of storage consolidation, NAS virtualization has emerged in only a few years from the research stage to being a key feature for large NAS installations. NAS virtualization products create a single logical view across the file systems of multiple NAS systems and are able to non-disruptively migrate data from one system to another. This is essential for efficient capacity utilization and sustained performance.

By creating a single logical view across multiple NAS systems, virtualization addresses the scalability, performance, and management problems that plague large NAS environments today. (For more information, see “NAS virtualization simplifies file management,” InfoStor Special Report, October 2005, p. 18.) Distributed file systems, which enable NAS virtualization, represent one of the major storage technology advances of the past five years. Our NAS survey shows significant end-user interest in virtualization and an increased awareness of the benefits.

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The figure, above, shows the number of installed virtualization engines by industry. The telecom industry is the largest user of NAS virtualization. About 16% of the 2,111 surveyed sites and 42% of the selected population use some kind of NAS virtualization today, and another 13% of the companies in the selected population will implement virtualization this year, as shown in the figure, below.

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Users cite improved performance as the major benefit of NAS virtualization, as shown below, while scalability and ease of deployment are at the top of the selection criteria when acquiring a virtualization product.

More than 73% of the survey participants want to leverage existing backup-and-recovery procedures in NAS virtualization environments, and 69% want a NAS virtualization solution that does not require remounting of clients. NAS growth has outpaced predictions. However, managing many discrete file systems without help has proven to be an impossible task, which will lead to increased adoption of NAS virtualization in 2006.

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For more information on the 2005 NAS and NAS Virtualization Report, go to www.periconcepts.com or www.tomcoughlin.com, or call (408) 871-8808.

Farid Neema is president and senior analyst of Peripheral Concepts, and Tom Coughlin is president of Coughlin Associates.

This article was originally published on February 01, 2006