Attune enters file virtualization arena

By Ann Silverthorn

Start-up Attune Systems has launched Maestro File Manager FM5500, a NAS virtualization or network file management (NFM) appliance that is designed to simplify and reduce the cost of managing heterogeneous file servers and file data resources.

“Unstructured file data is growing at an unrelenting pace,” says Daniel Liddle, vice president of marketing for Attune. “System administrators can’t optimize their resources and don’t have a good understanding of their files and usage. They’re ending up with stranded islands of capacity, and management costs can be 5x to 7x the cost of their storage.”

Maestro File Manager provides a global namespace, allowing administrators to combine multiple physical volumes into one virtual volume. The Windows-based solution offers native CIFS for interoperability and authentication. Maestro File Manager also enables file-server consolidation and retirement.

According to recent survey results from TheInfoPro (TIP) research firm, file virtualization is evolving from a “nice-to-have” feature to a “permanent spot in the file-handling toolbox,” because of issues such as regulatory compliance. TIP claims NAS footprints have tripled over the last 18 months, from an average of 50TB to almost 150TB among Fortune 1000 firms, creating a management issue that file virtualization helps simplify.

“It’s simple if you have a few NAS filers, but having 20 or more creates a major management issue,” says Robert Stevenson, managing director of TIP’s storage research. “Getting the most from a NAS investment requires optimization, and that’s where file virtualization helps.”

Maestro Policy IQ, the intelligence in Maestro File Manager, provides insight into server performance, capacity, and availability. Notifications can be set up so that pre-emptive action can be taken even in the absence of the system administrator. For instance, policies can be set so if a particular volume reaches 80% of capacity, more capacity is automatically merged in.

Maestro File Manager also features information lifecycle management (ILM)-like policies and tiering file data across NAS and file servers. Data can be managed on a file-by-file basis moving static files to lower-cost storage. Liddle says for a more granular ILM, including data classification, Attune may partner with another vendor.

Maestro File Manager also offers an optional Small File Acceleration feature for businesses such as domain-name registration companies or movie postproduction houses that store a large number of small files. These small files can be stored directly on the Maestro File Manager to speed file searches. The device can store up to 146GB on up to 12 drives.

To address end users’ fears associated with an abrupt introduction of Maestro File Manager into their complicated file server environments, Attune offers a three-stage deployment approach.

  • Discovery Mode-The appliance is out-of-band, but can see all of the resources on the network and monitors the latency, throughput, and capacity associated with those resources;
  • Native Mode-Maestro File Manager performs namespace and NFM functions, but leaves all the files in the same format. It provides dual-path access to the files, so the files can be accessed through the original path or through the device; and
  • Fully Extended Mode-The device is fully deployed, performing dynamic capacity expansion and adaptable striping and mirroring.
Attune packages Maestro File Manager’s intelligence and patents in off-the-shelf hardware that ports to any x86 platform. Pricing starts at $44,995.

Other NAS virtualization, or NFM, products on the market include Acopia’s Adaptive Resource Switch, Brocade’s StorageX (from its acquisition of Nu-View), EMC’s Global File Virtualization, NeoPath Networks’ File Director, and Network Appliance’s V-Series.

This article was originally published on June 01, 2006