Network Appliance is readying an upgrade to the software at the heart of its network file servers, and the first beneficiaries could be organisations running Linux clusters.
Data OnTap Next Generation (NG), a follow-on to Version 7G, will be phased in over the next two years. Among other things, it will let companies build Linux clusters that can store and access data across multiple servers and file systems. It also will help provide a common management interface and failover, Network Appliance says.
Currently, many clustering shops distribute large files and directories across separate servers and storage systems, each of which is managed separately, the vendor says.
The revised Network Appliance operating system will incorporate aspects of the software used in the company's SpinServer appliances, obtained via the US$300 million acquisition of Spinnaker Networks in November 2003.
These devices sit between Linux clusters and the sort of network-attached storage (NAS) systems in which Network Appliance has made its name. (With a 37% share in last year's fourth quarter, the company leads EMC and the rest of the NAS market, according to IDC.)
Devices running Data OnTap NG initially will find a home at organizations running high-performance computing systems, such as biotechnology outfits and research labs, says Dave Hitz, co-founder and executive vice president of Network Appliance. Further out, the software will make its way into all sorts of companies looking to virtualise storage and consolidate data management, he says.
"NAS installations are getting so big that enterprise organisations want to be able to consolidate their management activity and get better scalability," says Brian Babineau, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
Others competing in this field include Cluster File Systems and Panasas.
In integrating its OnTap software with Spinnaker's technology, Network Appliance this year is bringing data-protection capabilities, such as SnapLock and SnapMirror, to the SpinServers. Network Appliance also has settled on keeping its storage hardware and phasing out Spinnaker's.
By the end of next year, Network Appliance says it intends to include file and directory striping in Data OnTap NG, plus support block storage, Microsoft's Common Internet File System (CIFS) and iSCSI .
Network Appliance anticipates most customers won't move to the new OnTap for several years.