New Options for the NAS-Strapped

Arthur Cole

Virtual and cloud architectures are making it easier, and cheaper, for the enterprise to provision the necessary resources to handle increasingly large data loads. Naturally, then, it would seem that demand for traditional hardware-based infrastructure would diminish, particularly when it comes to costly infrastructure like storage networking.

Nevertheless, the industry is still seeing a steady stream of hardware platforms hitting the channel, nearly all of which tout lower costs — both on the capex and opex sides — as well as increased flexibility and interaction with distributed and cloud-based architectures.

One of the newest entrants is the UK’s Buffalo Technology, which recently launched its flagship TeraStation 7000 series aimed squarely at complex environments that process mission-critical applications. The system is configured as a 2-rack array with 12 SATA drive slots, four GbE ports and quad-core Xeon E3-1225-based controllers featuring up to 4 GB of DDR3 ECC memory. The system is available in 8 and 12 TB configurations using only four of the available drive slots, which leaves plenty of room for expansion. The company’s NAS System software provides iSCSI connectivity and real- time sync with multiple TeraStations.

Meanwhile, Infortrend recently released a new version of its ZFS-based (Zettabyte File System) EonNAS platform in both 8-bay tower and 12-bay rack-mount configurations. The EonNAS X ships with 10 GbE connectivity and 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, which, along with the ZFS system, provides high transfer speeds and ample RAM to form the heart of a unified storage architecture. The system uses Core i3 processors in the controller and is available in configurations up to 48 TB for under $3,600.

At the same time, long-time storage vendors are adding new features to their product lines to make them more cloud-friendly. EMC, for example, is leveraging its new file-sharing technology obtained through the Syncplicity acquisition to allow users to quickly link in-house storage to the cloud. Users of either the Isilon NAS system or the Atmos object-based platform will now be able to access, sync and share files using Syncplicity, providing broad data flexibility while preserving policy and security capabilities for IT. As well, it eliminates the need to duplicate shared data on the cloud, while still providing a means to delete files from user devices as needed.

For smaller firms, building out NAS hardware has always been a burden. But a company called SoftNAS says its new virtual appliance approach provides full NAS capability using existing disparate storage infrastructure. The system aggregates all available disk space into networked volume or file systems, and then provides a dose of RAM cache for high-speed load processing or related tasks like deduplication. As well, there are features like a copy-on-write file system, scheduled snapshots and file sharing designed to ensure data integrity and reliability without tying up disk capacity. The system runs on VMware’s ESXi and vSphere platforms, Microsoft Hyper-V and leading cloud services like Amazon EC2.

The good news in all of this is that storage networking technology is growing more diverse and is becoming available to a larger segment of the enterprise industry. In the old days, if you could not afford a purpose-built SAN or NAS infrastructure, you were simply out of luck.

With traditional storage systems increasingly moving to the virtual layer even as lower-cost hardware platforms become available, even small organizations should finally realize the benefits of networked architecture. And with mobility and the cloud driving a need for greater flexibility on the part of legacy systems, it’s not a moment too soon.



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