A conversation with Doug Fiero, EMC's manager of enterprise storage networks

InfoStor: NAS has always seemed to be an afterthought at EMC, even though you've been shipping your Celerra NAS server since 1996. Now that the NAS market is exploding, are you getting more aggressive?

Fiero: Yes. A number of applications are fueling NAS adoption, particularly Internet-related applications that require file sharing, including Web pages, software engineering, e-mail sharing, and CAD/CAM.

What's your take on the NAS vs. SAN argument?

We believe that the two complement each other. It's not one versus the other, it's one and the other.

For example, Celerra gives you Ethernet-attached file sharing on the front end, and on the back end you can have Fibre Channel-attached SAN storage with Symmetrix and our directors.

Do you have any plans to decouple Celerra from Symmetrix?

No. Most of our Celerra customers don't only buy Celerra and Symmetrix, they also buy SRDF, TimeFinder, and other integrated software applications that reside on Symmetrix to give them the ability to do remote recovery, disaster recovery, etc.

As you step up your NAS efforts, I'm sure Network Appliance is squarely in your sites. How do you differentiate Celerra from NetApp's NAS filers?

First, scalability. We have 14 data movers in a single frame. Then, performance.

We far exceed any other vendor in performance. Also, failover and redundancy, or availability.

What performance numbers are you claiming?

In our most recent benchmarks, we achieved about 105,000 I/Os per second [a 60% performance improvement over the previous version of Celerra].

What's the revenue growth rate in your NAS product line?

Our Q2 NAS revenues were up 660% over Q2 of the year before. [In the first six months of this year, EMC's NAS revenues increased almost 10x over the first half of 1999.]

Do you plan to support Network Appliance's DAFS [Direct Access File System]?

We don't have a position on it now. We're reviewing and evaluating it.

A lot of people talk about the convergence of NAS and SAN, but at a base definition NAS is at the file level and SAN is at the block level. Can the two architectures come together or is the NAS+SAN argument just a ploy to avoid the NAS vs. SAN argument?

It's a little bit of both. In reality, today there's no technology that can drive block-level I/O and file sharing together. In the future you'll see bridges that will enable Fibre Channel to work with IP networks, but that won't really solve the problem of file sharing vs. block I/O architectures.

So you don't see a convergence of block-level I/O and file-level I/O?

It'll be some time. But the technologies of NAS and SAN will continue to converge.

If IP-based storage becomes reality, then I could see some sort of convergence, at least in terms of definitions if not technologies. Would you agree?

Yes, but there are a lot of standards to be developed and accepted before IP storage will see the light of day.

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Doug Fiero
enterprise storage networks, EMC

This article was originally published on November 01, 2000