NAS, SAN go hand in hand: Dell official

Emerging storage technologies storage area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) need not be pitted as competitors, and can coexist within the same organisation, according to a Dell Computer official.

It is not unusual for customers to be interested in deploying both storage technologies within the same network infrastructure, especially if they are running in mixed Windows NT and Unix environments, said Bruce Kornfeld, senior manager for product marketing, Dell.

Kornfeld was recently in town to launch Dell's new suite of NAS products, a year after the company first announced its entry into the enterprise storage market.

NAS is a "consolidated storage on the network", while SAN is a "consolidated storage for servers", he said. NAS is likely a better choice for smaller companies because these users do not require a lot of application servers, he said.

Kornfeld added that this storage infrastructure is also ideal for organisations operating in environments with both Windows NT and Unix platforms, and whose focus is on the client side. SAN will benefit companies whose storage needs are constantly increasing, and where managing data is becoming more complex, he said. Dell has product offerings to support both technologies, so it is "not pushing one or the other", he added.

Another storage technology, hierarchical storage management (HSM), has not really taken off because it was initially developed for mainframes where disk drives were too expensive to use for large storage requirements, and where tape and optical media are the preferred choices, Kornfeld noted. But this is no longer an issue in Windows NT and Unix environments which are now more common.

According to figures from IDC, the worldwide NAS market will grow by almost 54 per cent per year to reach $US5.1 billion by 2003. In terms of revenue, IDC noted that the fastest-growing segment is in mid-range systems, where products are priced between $6000 and $24,999.

But because a NAS infrastructure requires data to travel through the LAN, there are concerns that this may aggravate an already congested LAN traffic, a suggestion that Kornfeld was quick to dismiss. Connected directly to the network, NAS systems provide immediate client access to stored data, so file serving is faster because it is now performing its core function, he said.

"Without NAS, the client-user typically extracts data straight from the application server, which has to handle storage amongst its other functions," Kornfeld said, adding that by designating storage specifically to a file server, it takes the load off the application server which is then able to process faster.

Dell's NAS PowerVault 700 series offers support for shared Windows NT and Unix environments, where there is no need for additional software to enable communication between systems running on the two operating systems, a common exercise with products from Dell's competitors, Kornfeld said. He noted that a current Dell NAS customer was also able to share files between Windows NT and the open source Linux operating system.

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