As Microsoft becomes a credible foe in the NAS arena, Network Appliance this week will unveil a wide range of enhancements to its product line.
Emphasizing interoperability and management, NetApp will announce a new NAS gateway product that is compatible with IBM Corp.'s SAN products, two new high-end NAS appliances, a capacity increase of its nearline storage system, and new technology that protects against multiple drive failures in a single system.
NetApp's gFiler product has now been designed to work in conjunction with IBM's TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server and FAStT products after IBM provided APIs and interfaces to NetApp. A similar exchange had already been done with Hitachi Data Systems Corp. (HDS) in which a gFlier front-ends HDS's Lightning 9970V and 9980V, and Thunder 9570V storage systems.
Additionally, the gFiler can also access data over iSCSI, instead of just over IP, NetApp executives report.
According to Mark Santora, senior vice president of marketing at NetApp, the company is hopeful it can receive proprietary APIs from other vendors including Hewlett-Packard Co. and EMC Corp. to offer a NAS solution that works seamlessly with their respective block-level SAN systems.
Also new are the FAS980 and FAS980c storage systems. High-end additions to its NAS appliance family, the systems feature 64TB of capacity, a 16TB increase over its previously largest appliance: the FAS960.
Additionally, the systems are faster due to new processors and new clustering technology that leverages RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access), a communications protocol that moves data from the memory of one computer to another without involving the CPU.
And in an attempt to please both smaller and larger customers that prefer disk backup instead of tape, NetApp will introduce the NearStore R200. The product can come with as little as 8TB of capacity and scale to as many as 96TB. The previous NearStore product had a range of only 12TB to 24TB.
In addition, NetApp has developed plug-ins for the R200 for various backup software applications including those from Veritas Software Corp., Computer Associates International Inc., and Legato Systems Inc. It has also added support to include Microsoft Windows 2003, Linux, AIX, IRIX, and Solaris 9.
Across its line of products, NetApp has added a new data protection technology that it calls RAID-DP. Santora says the technology will permit the NetApp appliances to continue running even if there are two disk failures. He argues that RAID-DP will provide the same level of protection as using traditional RAID-1, where 100 percent of a disk is mirrored to another disk; however at a significant cost savings because the customer does not have to buy more disk, but instead can do RAID-DP across the existing disks.
NetApp continues to compete with Microsoft in the NAS space. In September, Microsoft released Storage Server 2003, its dedicated file and print server technology that has been licensed and built into NAS appliances by major storage vendors such as Dell Inc., EMC, IBM, and HP.
Steve Kenniston, an analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group believes the new products and technologies from NetApp add more distance between it and Microsoft.
"From a solution standpoint versus Microsoft, NetApp is far and away ahead with management features," said Kenniston, adding that Microsoft is focused on OEM deals and delivering a low-cost NAS solution.
He said that Microsoft-based NAS appliances are ideal for enterprises seeking to add raw capacity. NetApp will be better suited for companies looking to better integrate their storage products for business continuity, data protection, or compliance requirements, he added.
NetApp's Santora thinks the company's November acquisition of Spinnaker Networks, a developer of a grid computing-based storage system, will also help the company compete, especially with SAN developers.