In the cloud, it's all about scale. As data loads continue to increase, the ability to scale resources to meet demand will prove invaluable.
But since few enterprises are bent on transforming into an all-cloud architecture anytime soon, that kind of scalability will have be to be matched, in part at least, by in-house resources. For servers and networking, this is not an insurmountable problem considering virtualization already provides the ability to partition resources to an amazing degree. Storage, however, is another matter, particularly the massive installed base of SAN technology out there.
SAN managers in even moderately virtualized environments are already pushing the limits when it comes to creating new LUNs (logical unit numbers) to accommodate increasing numbers of virtual machines. Add a scaled up cloud architecture to the mix and it's easy to see how most SANs will be overloaded in the very near future.
Small wonder, then, that many of the top storage providers are starting to emphasize NAS in their latest platforms. By adopting a single global namespace, NAS users are able to scale their storage environments to a greater degree, although it is still limited to the confines of physical storage.
This is partly what has drawn long-time storage software developer Symantec into the hardware space with its FileStore N8300 appliance. The device will allow users of the Enterprise Vault archive system to scale up to six nodes, with total capacity per cluster hitting 1.4 PB. And that's just for starters, the FileStore software has the capability to scale up to 16 nodes, and provides automated tiering capability to boot.
NAS is also quickly coming down in price. Iomega recently hit the Consumer Electronics Show with a new NAS device called the Personal Cloud, available in consumer versions at $200 for 2 TB. The company is also bundling the technology into its professional level StorCenter ix2-20 and ix4-200d platforms in sizes ranging from 2 to 12 TB. The package comes with enterprise-class features like iSCSI block access, multi-RAID configurations and dual GE ports.
To be sure, NAS does have some disadvantages, most notably the absence of native Fibre Channel and all the management benefits that go with it. But with increasingly robust iSCSI platforms and Fibre Channel over Ethernet hitting the channel, those concerns are diminishing.
And as extremely scaled up architectures become the norm, NAS may soon become the only option.