FANs to leave SANs for dead

New storage technique more cost effective

With data storage demands rising every year, and technology lagging behind, analysts say big business will adopt file area networks (FANs) by 2008.

A FAN integrates hardware, software and services to organize and route file data or unstructured, data stored within a file system into a central database.

The new storage methodology is tipped to help businesses cost-effectively manage data networks, consolidate data and improve data connectivity. FANs are built on storage infrastructure which can be run in either a storage area network (SAN) or networked attached storage (NAS) environment, and uses file-serving devices integrated into the infrastructure or as a gateway interface.

A FAN is based on a file system which organizes, presents, and stores file content for clients, referred to as the file system's namespace.

IDC Asia Pacific associate vice president Grahame Penn said while there are early FAN adopters in Australia, it will take a few years for the benefits to be appealing to the mass market.

"We will start facing 30 to 50 percent increases in data [storage] demands while there are limited improvements in technology, [so] people will stop trying to make do with insufficient infrastructure," Penn said. "FANs work best in areas of high latency where there is benefit from this type of [centralized storage], remembering that increasing bandwidth doesn't fix latency."

Penn said FANs are to traditional file management what SANs were to direct-attached storage.

Brocade Australia and New Zealand country manager Graham Schultz said the development of the FAN mirrors the SAN life cycle.

"The FAN is in the same evolutionary period as SANs were six years ago; the technology is here but there will still be a lag in adoption from a lack of market awareness," Schultz said.

"CFOs need to verify that backup in remote sites has been done, so backup from a centralized database is a lot more controlled than something that could be done in a regional office using a piece of masking tape during the last half hour of a shift."

IDC's Penn said the global advent of compliance laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley and Japan's J-SOX will force industry to implement better storage layouts like FAN.

"These types of compliance measures are inevitable for Australia, except we will have to wait until someone is jailed for it before industry swarms in mass panic."

FAN vendors include EMC, Brocade and NetApp.

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