EMC Takes the HighRoad

Tool directs traffic to NAS or SAN system

Businesses looking to blend NAS and SAN systems—or move smoothly from one to the other—could find help in a new data routing software tool from EMC Corp.

As part of the Hopkinton, Mass., vendors introduction last week of its new midmarket network-attached storage product, EMC unveiled HighRoad, a server-based tool that automatically directs traffic requests to either an NAS system or a storage area network system, depending on whether the request is a small file or a large-block data transfer.

"What we have done is put [HighRoad] in the role of a traffic cop," said Jim Rothnie, EMCs senior vice president and CTO (chief technology officer). "It intercepts traffic on its way to the IP network."

EMC also announced the Clariion IP4700, a midrange device that analysts say provides the same fault tolerance as NAS vendor Network Appliance Inc.s Netfilers but in a single unit. Network Appliance offers fault tolerance through a clustered environment.

Customers such as Interelate Inc., a customer intelligence service provider, said NAS becomes a better option because of the new EMC software.

"To me, NAS didnt make sense until EMC came out with HighRoad," said Kurt Bertelsen, CTO at Interelate, in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Last year, NAS was a $68.2 million market. It is expected to become an $8.3 billion market in 2004, according to Dataquest Inc. On the other side, SAN, a $1.8 billion market last year, is expected to grow to $40.4 billion in 2004.

EMCs Rothnie envisions petabytes of information stored in large-scale centers and connected by distributed nodes at the edge so information is put closer to the users. SANs and NAS would work together in this kind of environment, he said.

Even customers of the more expensive SAN say that NAS has its place in storage, particularly because an IT manager can hook up a large number of clients to a device to access the same file. With SANs, only a limited number of clients can be connected to a disk array.

But NAS has performance limitations when it is used to do large-block data transfers. Generally, IT managers dont want to use NAS to do large-block I/Os with databases, which are tuned for speed.

"You give up a lot of power and predictability when you run Oracle on NAS. Its a lot slower," Bertelsen said.

But Andrew Daniels, director of security at NetLedger Inc., in San Mateo, Calif., said he had been hesitant to switch from Network Appliance to EMC because of high prices. Daniels said he has since considered the Clariion IP4700, which is priced at about $83,000.