Network Appliance looks to speed business apps

Network Appliance souped up its storage products Tuesday with two new technologies designed to speed workers' access to data contained in software such as databases and CRM (customer relationship management) applications.

Network Appliance claims to be the first among NAS (network attached storage) vendors to support the DAFS (Direct Access File System) protocol. The protocol will be supported by Network Appliance F800 series filer products that run version 6.2 of the company's Data OnTap operating system, said David Dale, industry evangelist at Network Appliance.

The DAFS technology lets applications take more control over I/O functions. Armed with the protocol, products from companies in the NAS market, such as Network Appliance, can boost data throughput speeds from Ethernet to Fibre Channel-like levels.

Network Appliance can use the performance boost to charge into the database storage market, and attract users of Oracle Corp., IBM Corp., and Sybase Inc. software who are looking for efficient storage technology. One analyst said Network Appliance's technology can make running NAS-based database storage over existing IP (Internet Protocol) networks more cost-effective than doing so within a Fibre Channel-based SAN (storage area network).

"It's very dramatic," said Roger Cox, a chief analyst with Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut. "One of Netapp's (Network Appliance) primary growth engines is to expand into the database market, and Netapp is probably very effective from a cost point of view and a total cost of ownership point of view."

Customers will be able use the DAFS technology with Network Appliance filers by mid-April with the purchase of a protocol license and a specialized host bus adapter. The DAFS protocol license costs US$15,000 more than an NFS (network file system) license, Dale said. The adapter, sold separately, is priced at approximately $2,500.

Network Appliance, based in Sunnyvale, California, also released Tuesday new tools designed to speed the way its data-caching appliances work with business applications such as CRM, ERP (enterprise resource planning) and SCM (supply chain management).

The new tools are standard on the NetCache 5.3 software that will start shipping later this month on the company's latest caching hardware. An upgrade for the software comes at no charge for customers with a software support contract. Pricing for other users will be between $2,000 at the low end and $20,000 on the high end for the NetCache 5.3 package, depending on the user's hardware configuration.

With the upgrade, the company has tuned its caching software to speed interoperability between its caching products and applications from the likes of Oracle Corp. and Siebel Systems Inc. Graphics, Java applets, certain types of software templates, and other large files used in these applications tend to clog up networks because of their large size. However, these types of files usually do not change very often. The upgraded software from Network Appliance caches these files locally, and pulls from the remote server only changes made to these files, a company spokesman said.

(Additional reporting by Dan Neel, a senior writer for InfoWorld based in New York.)

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