Antarctic Storage is a SNAP

When the Aurora cruises out of Tasmania bound for Antarctica later this month it won't just be stocked with the usual food supplies, scientists, and instruments. A new piece of IT equipment will be aboard the vessel, which will change the way scientists share their research.

The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), which maintains the four permanent Australian research stations, and conducts and manages scientific research, will be implementing a network attached storage (NAS) solution, called Snap. For the 50 to 60 scientists aboard the Aurora, this will be the first time they will be able share a network on the ship.

Bryan Scott, from the AAD's Marine Science Support division, said the sharing of information aboard the vessel had previously been done in an "ad hoc" way. "There has never been infrastructure to do that before. The scientists have been asking for it a fair bit so we decided to implement it," he says.

"When scientists come on board we don't know what kind of equipment they have. They could be coming from the US and going straight to the boat, so we might not get to see them. With [the Snap server] it doesn't matter what they bring with them, everyone will be working off the same system."

The AAD has hired out two ships for its summer expeditions - the Polar Bird and the Aurora. For the moment, only the Aurora will be fitted with the new Snap Server 1000. Scott says this solution was selected for its competitive price, costing around $1000-$1300, and for its ease of installation.

"We chose it because it was a simple solution - we can plug it straight in and it goes. The only server we have on the boat is for data logging and we couldn't add more space onto that because we want to keep a very simple server set up. The new server has the ability to back up onto a DLT but we are not backing up at all, it is just for sharing data."

Richard Moh, Asia-Pacific sales and operations, Quantum Snap division, claims that NAS is the fastest-growing storage connectivity in the storage market because it is an easy and reliable solution.

"NAS is growing at 100 per cent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) versus 60 per cent CAGR for storage area network (SAN)," Moh said.

Led by Network Appliance with products including its popular Enterprise Filer series, the NAS market is now hotly contested by a raft of players including Compaq, Dell, EMC, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Hitachi Data Systems. Along with the hardware, software products such as CA's BrightStor Enterprise Backup, Novell Backup Services, and Veritas Volume Manager are being pushed with the promise of easing storage management headaches.

"The major reason of this high growth is because NAS uses Ethernet network protocol, which is already the industry standard; most organisations are already using it. That makes NAS an easy and reliable choice compared to SAN, which is using Fibre Channel, a still evolving standard," Moh added.

The Aurora leaves Tasmania for a six-week Antarctic expedition on September 28.

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