StorageX Eases File Management

 
 
By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2002-05-20 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


NuView Inc.s newly minted StorageX management software will be a valuable addition for organizations that need help reining in the file servers and NAS boxes that have been aggressively proliferating throughout corporate networks.

NuView literature describes StorageX, which began shipping earlier this month, as a "file virtualization" product, but eWeek Labs tests showed that it might more accurately be called a centralized file-share management utility.

Marketing verbiage aside, the bottom line is that StorageX is a fairly simple product that has the capability to make life a lot easier for storage management professionals.

StorageX is priced at $10,000 for a management server and five managed servers, which will make its purchase easier to justify for larger enterprises than for smaller ones or organizations with shoestring budgets. At 1,000 users, for example, StorageX would cost $10 per user, which is a reasonable price. However, at $100 per user for 100 users or $1,000 per user for 10 users, it would be an expensive proposition for most companies.

StorageX provides an extension of Microsoft Corp.s DFS (Distributed File System) protocol, and it enables IT managers to centralize management of file shares under a single namespace. Specifically, StorageX adds disaster recovery capabilities and replication to DFS and provides an easy-to-use management interface to configure and manage file shares.

In tests, the biggest negative we found with StorageX is that it is too Microsoft-centric— clients must be compatible with Microsofts DFS protocol to access file shares. Unix environments will not be able to access StorageX managed file shares out of the box, unless the open-source Samba server software is installed and configured on all Unix servers to allow them to communicate with Windows Common Internet File System file sharing protocol.

Alternative Roots

After creating a DFS root using StorageX, we could easily add shares from multiple NAS (network-attached storage) and Windows file servers to the root. Instead of having to map to each NAS and file server independently, a client can simply map to the single namespace to gain access to file shares.

When using the central namespace, servers no longer look like separate entities to the clients. Instead, file servers and NAS boxes only appear as shares throughout a corporatewide namespace.

It would be even more interesting if StorageX had the ability to aggregate file shares (for example, taking an 8GB share and a 10GB share on two devices to create a combined virtual 18GB share), but this feature is not yet available in this class of product.

Volume management offerings such as Veritas Software Corp.s Volume Manager can aggregate file shares, but its difficult to accomplish this in a distributed server environment.

Where the Files Are

The beauty of this virtualized file-share approach is that users no longer need to know the server on which they stored their data. Because this information is masked from users, IT managers can easily move and replicate data without informing users of where their data is physically located.

For example, using StorageX, we could migrate user data from a smaller NAS box to a larger one without forcing users to remap their drives to point to a new server location.

To test its disaster recovery purposes, we used StorageX to create replicas of our primary file shares on spare servers and scheduled file replications to make sure content was consistent between the primary file servers and the backup servers.

StorageXs file replication functions worked fairly well, and we could reliably schedule replication chores to ensure that files were up-to-date and that replication traffic wasnt eating up the entire WAN.

Of course, enterprises that have already invested in replication/mirroring products, such as Network Appliance Inc.s SnapMirror, would probably be better off sticking with their installed technology rather than tearing it out and installing StorageX.

When we simulated a disaster (by disabling our primary file servers), our clients were seamlessly redirected to mirrors (the file shares did not have to be remapped to the mirrors).

If this same disruption were to occur in a non-StorageX environment, the IT manager would probably have to manually re-create the file-share shortcuts on each users desktop (in a small environment) or would have to edit each users log-in scripts and have every one again log in to the domain/workgroup with the updated file-share pointers.

During the simulated disaster events, we tried running Microsoft Word and found no file corruption problems, which can often occur during the failover process. In another disruption test, we played MP3 files from the centralized file share and found that the music continued to play without interruption during the failover process. ´

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at henry_ baltazar@ziffdavis.com.



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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