Acopia Pushes for File Area Networks

The company's roadmap is based on a concept of published APIs and industry standards, and is global in scope.

By promoting its vision and roadmap toward a global, distributed information services network, Acopia Networks hopes to become a leader in the burgeoning market for File Area Networks.

The Lowell, Mass., company Oct. 30 unveiled its FAN roadmap—one based on a concept of published APIs and industry standards, and one global in scope.

Although other vendors have promoted the idea of the FAN, Acopia Networks view is more comprehensive, more global in nature and more complete, said Kirby Wadsworth, Acopias senior vice president for marketing and business development.

"Acopia feels that it is critical that the FAN include a virtualization layer, giving any user a single point of entrance, that it include real-time policy enforcement, and that it can support any storage infrastructure that it finds," he said.

Acopia Chairman Cheng Wu envisions a future in which a globally distributed information services network is the method of choice for all file distribution, due in large part to technology shifts toward file-based versus block-based storage, global virtualization and policy enforcement, Wadsworth said.

To achieve its goal, Acopia plans to build on its ARX file virtualization switches, Wadsworth said.

The company plans to move from simplified file management through tiering, migration, load balancing and replication in 2006 to enhanced service delivery through indexing, classification, application, acceleration, capacity optimization and security in 2007.

By 2008, the company hopes to achieve the goal of truly integrated global information management through application integration, business intelligence, data protection and conformance.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about iLumins file system management efforts.

"This is what Acopia and other file system virtualization vendors have been striving for from the start," said Tony Asaro, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group of Milford, Mass. "FAN just becomes a new way of talking and thinking about it.

Acopia does provide a value-add, Asaro said, in the form of an intelligent switch that provides a software-rich, high-performance platform enabling a global name space for CIFS (Common Internet File System) and NFS (Network File System).

It also provides a set of data management capabilities that support heterogeneous storage and file systems.

These capabilities allow the system to scale to any environment and provide all of the necessary capabilities to implement a FAN, according to Acopia.

"Acopia is really trying to create a new way of thinking about file storage and how to leverage the assets to make something greater than the sum of their parts," Asaro said.

Although other vendors have been talking about achieving a unified file management strategy, its an emerging market, with most vendors still struggling to achieve that goal. Most that do currently use global name space solutions, he said.

By announcing its vision so publicly, Acopia is taking advantage of a true market opportunity, said Dave Russell, research vice president for storage technologies and strategies at Gartner of Stamford, Conn.

"There is a lot of opportunity, due to the absence of large vendors like EMC, IBM and NetApp, and Acopias strong embracing of other kinds of virtualization," he said.

Those other vendors are simply late to market with their FAN-based offerings, he said. "Over time, others will make moves into the market," Russell said.

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