IBM is making its bid for the scale-out NAS market with today’s debut of the Scale Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS) system, an appliance-based platform that combines IBM’s General Parallel File System (GPFS), Systems Software and NAS hardware to create a system that scales up to 14.4PB.

According to IBM officials, SONAS virtualizes and consolidates multiple filers into a single, enterprise-wide file system, with integrated management, provisioning, data protection, and automated information lifecycle management (ILM).

The initial versions of SONAS will support any combination of up to 30 interface nodes and 30 “storage pods,” which range from 4U to 16U in size. Each pod can provide reliable storage from 27TB to 480TB of capacity. Storage pods and interface nodes can be combined into one globally clustered scale-out NAS system with a maximum capacity of 14.4PB.

The system maintains a global namespace across a cluster of storage pods and interface nodes. All interface nodes and storage nodes share equally in the cluster to balance workloads dynamically and provide parallel performance, high availability and automated failover.

The SONAS system also includes an integrated Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) backup/archive client, up to 256 snapshots per file system, and support for RAID 5 and RAID 6.

SONAS supports standard network protocols, including CIFS, NFS, the Secure Copy Protocol (SCP), HTTP and FTP.

IBM is positioning the SONAS system for use by medium-sized and large enterprise customers and as a cloud storage platform. Mesabi Group analyst David Hill says an entry-level SONAS configuration carries a starting price “that runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars” and is obviously aimed at enterprise customers.

In a recent research note on SONAS, Hill writes, “IBM strongly emphasizes that its N series NAS solutions (which it OEMs from NetApp) will continue to play their traditional role in the entry and midrange markets, as well as the lower end of the enterprise.”

Hill continues, “IT managers have dreamed about enterprise-class NAS solutions like IBM’s SONAS for years, but vendors never delivered. That said, what SONAS can do today is just a fraction of what it will do in the future. Although nothing is certain, we expect IBM will eventually extend the geographical reach of SONAS to multiple sites that can share data seamlessly, and to provide a tighter integration with its Information Archive (formerly known as the DR550) solution.”