New Flexibility in NAS Appliances

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NAS appliances are getting more and more popular, not just for small businesses but established enterprises looking to quickly deploy additional storage at low cost without a lot of network reconfiguration.


And while storage appliances in general have long been considered the stripped-down cousins of the full network versions, the newest devices are showing strong gains in capacity, throughput, management efficiency and other functions.


Intel and EMC are the latest to team up on a NAS appliance, according to this InfoStor Magazine piece. The companies just unveiled the Entry Storage System SS4200 in either a hardware-only version or with EMC's LifeLine software offering data access, sharing, protection, backup and other enterprise features. The device is scalable up to several terabytes.


Meanwhile, HP has fostered wider demand for its ProLiant platform by putting the NAS server onto an appliance running Microsoft Windows Storage Server software. The combination has proved to be such a hit with SMBs that NAS sales jumped 13.4 percent for the first half of the year.


And CNNmoney.com reports that SGI just introduced the NEXIS 9000 NAS platform, which is not an appliance per se, but provides appliance-like installation, plus automated asset discovery and management functions. Part of the InfiniteStorage family, the 2U device uses the remote direct-access memory (RDMA) over Infiniband protocol, plus an expanded cache architecture, to deliver 1 GBps write and 3 Gbps read performance, with the ability to scale from 3 TB to nearly half a petabyte. The system can also accommodate GbE and 10 GbE for easy integration into existing network architectures.


Existing SAN environments can also easily accommodate file-based NAS, but you don't need an appliance to do so. This article highlights the benefits of simply using a NAS gateway to serve files from the SAN or any other type of external storage. In this way, you get the ease and flexibility of a NAS appliance coupled with the storage capacity of the SAN.


A NAS platform is best suited for unstructured or transactional data, such as databases and e-mail. And while it starts to strain under extremely heavy data loads, it still offers a flexible and cost-effective solution for most environments, particularly when it's housed in the convenience of an appliance.