NAS Priming for the Cloud

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

The Must-Have Features of NAS

Our Paul Mah looks at the necessary elements of any NAS deployment.

It's been clear for some time now that the future of storage is NAS. SAN architectures simply do not have the scalability required for advanced virtual and cloud environments.

So it isn't surprising that the major platform providers are investing heavily in NAS technology as they convert their portfolios to virtual-ready status. What's puzzling is why it's taken so long.

EMC, for example, was not entirely without some in-house NAS knowledge when it plunked down $2.25 billion for relatively tiny Isilon Systems. But the buy finally puts EMC in the big leagues in terms of building the kind of scale-out architecture required by the coming cloud-based enterprise. It also places EMC, long the dominant storage provider for bricks-and-mortar data centers, on an equal footing with the likes of NetApp, HP, Dell and IBM, all of which have come out with massively scalable NAS systems in recent months.

This pursuit of "big data," such as unstructured and object data from the medical, energy and even entertainment fields, will be what differentiates tomorrow's storage industry from days gone by, according to Technology Business Research. The research firms predict EMC will have an easier time tapping into high-growth vertical markets than other storage vendors through its unique "serverless systems strategy" that stresses storage, software and appliances-the last courtesy of EMC's other recent acquisition: Greenplum.

Still, it wouldn't be wise to overlook some of the other NAS technologies hitting the channel. IBM recently introduced a massive new array called SONAS (Scale Out Network Attached Storage) that draws on the company's supercomputing experience to offer upwards of 14 petabytes in a single name space. That gives it the ability to support massive cluster and/or widespread cloud environments, allowing literally billions of files to be shared across a wide range of resources. The company is pairing the system with new policy-drive automation that improves utilization rates and ultimately lower hardware costs.

A growing cadre of smaller NAS providers are also poised to gather market share under the cloud. Companies like Nasuni are hoping to leverage their NAS appliance architectures by partnering with virtualization platform providers-in this case, Citrix. By tapping into the underlying virtual infrastructure, the thinking goes that they will be in prime position to meet increased storage demands as enterprises transition to public, private and hybrid clouds.

In many ways, storage has been the most difficult aspect of the virtual era, if only because so much of the storage investment over the past decade went to SAN technology. Now that scalability is the key attribute, many enterprises have hit the limit as to how much virtualization they can handle.

While this is only a temporary setback, its duration will depend strictly on how quickly the enterprise industry can obtain and provision a functioning NAS environment.

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