3Par, OnStor Develop Unique Twist on SAN/NAS Services

The pair's UtiliCat unified storage offering provides both storage area network and network-attached storage services.

3Pardata Inc. and OnStor Inc. have joined forces to develop a different way of scaling SAN and NAS services that aims squarely at the techniques used by much larger rivals like Network Appliance Inc. and EMC Corp.

The resulting solution, called UtiliCat, combines the storage area network-based utility storage solutions of 3Par, of Los Gatos, Calif., with Fremont, Calif.-based OnStors enterprise NAS Gateway solutions, resulting in a unified storage offering that provides both SAN and network-attached storage services. The product scales from 2.5 to 384 terabytes and from one to eight NAS gateways in one cluster, while SAN controllers scale from two to eight. Native SAN connectivity ranges from four to 128 Fibre Channel ports.

UtiliCats architecture is a fundamentally different way of scaling SAN and NAS services that centralizes everything around one capacity pool, allowing organizations to get much more out of their existing resources, said Geoff Hough, 3Pars director of product marketing.

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Unlike NetApps filer-centric solution, which requires organizations to purchase additional filers as needs grow, UtiliCat offers an industrial-strength capacity pool and industrial-strength NAS services, Hough said.

"You grow those within the same system, adding things as you need them—capacity on the NAS or SAN side, or bandwidth on the NAS or SAN side," he said. "But you stay within the same environment, and its all load balanced within that environment."

UtiliCat, which is targeted toward companies with high compute and data needs or those with unpredictable growth patterns, offers automated load balancing and provisioning of up to 400 virtual file systems.

In addition to automated load balancing and provisioning, UtiliCats modular SAN/NAS product offers automatic capacity provisioning and thin provisioning, allowing organizations to present one storage image while only purchasing storage in accordance with written data. And because of the products unique architecture and the way it scales, UtiliCat can scale without disrupting ongoing operations, Hough said.

Although the product has real benefits, 3Par and OnStor may find gaining market share an uphill battle against entrenched providers EMC and NetApp, said David Hill, a principal at Mesabi Group LLC of Westwood, Mass. Those companies will continue to get the bulk of the business, but UtiliCat may gain converts of those that have specific needs or need additional functionality, such as the ability to add capacity on a dynamic basis without having to forecast demand accurately, he said.

"You can accomplish the same goal using products from NetApp or EMC, but this is a little easier and more flexible. It could be useful for customers that need a little extra ease or functionality in one area or another," he said.

Although UtiliCats approach is different and beneficial, 3Par and OnStor likely introduced the product as a purely competitive move, Hill said.

"3Par needed a NAS partner and OnStor needed a SAN partner, and each has something to contribute. They wanted to get in the game, and coming up with something a little different and combining technologies was the easiest way of becoming a competitor in this market," he said.

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