Need Capacity?

For some time, NAS products have been knocked for their inability to scale and for being difficult to manage. Well, that is changing: Startups Spinnaker Networks and 3Par are the latest to release next-generation NAS products that promise to solve both problems. However, one question emerges -- what the hell do we do with all this capacity?

In times when everyone from the IT manager to the HR director are thinking and saying "consolidation," here come storage products that essentially ask you to give up the old stuff and buy new. Is this really the best time for that message?

Let's look at Spinnaker Network's SpinServer 3300. A single SpinServer 3300 can scale up to 22TB; with its clustering software, up to 512 servers can be cobbled together to give 11,000TB (or 11PB).

All these terabytes would do little good if not for Spinnaker's two-stage distributed file system. Thanks to this architecture, data can be accessed from any client port, eliminating the need for users to locate data physically within a single system. The file system routes the data request to the appropriate server and -- voilà -- users have access to data no matter which server it resides on.

On the management side, SpinServer has a Web-based management platform that permits control of all the servers from a single place. This varies significantly from older NAS products that required a client to access a particular server that contained the requested data.

Another SpinServer feature we like is that virtual servers can be defined for specific applications or user groups. So, a storage administrator can logically group any number of resources into a virtual server and provide limited access to the data by work group,application, or other groups. The idea here again is simplified management.

What is most interesting about the Spinnaker server is the company's decision to go with commodity hardware. Within the server, you won't find any custom-made ASICs, but rather dual Intel processors. Companies merely need to purchase a standard Gigabit Ethernetswitch to do clustering. This approach will help the company roll out other members of the SpinServer family faster; hopefully, the next product will be better-priced for enterprises that have no intention to ever get near needing 11PB of storage.

Also out this week with a new and huge storage system is 3Par. The company's InServ Storage Server family consists of three systems, with the largest scaling up to 375TB in a single server. With eight 800s servers clustered together, a single array offers 378TB.

We love the ease, but we don't think enterprises are willing to shell out the bucks for capacity they'll never use. As for the managed service providers, which have large capacity needs, they aren't spending either. And if they're not buying, then we're not buying.

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