After a decade of criticizing the complexity and high price of storage area networks, Network Appliance Inc. officials finally shipped their own SAN products last fall—and promptly found out that its not so easy.
Now, less than a year later, several improvements are being prepared, mostly for the same Fibre Channel market, said Rich Clifton, vice president of NetApps SAN/iSAN business unit. The upgrades include increased operating systems support, SAN-enabled systems that use less rack space and management software updates.
All the Sunnyvale, Calif., companys latest NAS (network-attached storage) devices are SAN-enabled for Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris and Microsoft Corp.s Windows. Linux is being added for Fibre Channel, support for Novell Inc. is coming for iSCSI and multiple other Unix flavors are also due this year, Clifton said. “Most large customers have a broader portfolio of enterprise servers in their infrastructure, so theres a lot of pressure on us,” he said.
The FAS200 and FAS250 are designed with integrated storage and connectivity, Clifton said. In addition, “youre going to see an aggressive pace” of announcements of future FAS200-series models, featuring higher performance, he said.
Ambrose Earle, technical systems manager at dairy specialist Shamrock Foods Co., runs about 8 terabytes of Oracle Corp. databases and other production data on NetApps high-end FAS900 series. Earle plans to migrate his data centers last few servers to NAS next month, but so far, hes using the Fibre Channel option for tape backups.
“Its a good advantage that we have the ability to add that,” said Earle, in Phoenix. “I still think, personally, that [NAS] is better long term” for primary data.
But overall, “if theyre going to increase their revenue and the size of the company and be around longer, then Im all for it,” Earle said.
APIs to help integrate NetApp hardware and software with third-party products are still in development, Clifton said. Two such APIs already exist for monitoring; two more will debut within nine months for control, he said.
The company is also porting its SnapDrive virtualization and volume management software for iSCSI, and that is due next month, officials said.
Integration of all the new software with NetApps Data Ontap 6.4 operating system and with the industrys evolving Common Information Model for heterogeneous storage management is also planned, but there isnt a solid time frame, Clifton said. When it does happen, there will be links to “all the major frameworks” for enterprise management, he said.
Despite the Fibre Channel focus, Steve Almera, senior systems administrator at San Diego Data Processing Corp., said he beta tested a NetApp iSCSI SAN and will probably implement it for Microsoft Corp. SQL Server data later this year. “When they steered us through the pilot, they knew their stuff. Were scheduling around their release of SnapDrive,” Almera said.
In addition, the smaller size and easier installation of the FAS250 unit is appealing, Almera said.
There are other needs for the SAN newcomer, including more switch options, according to customers and industry analysts. NetApp resells only switches from Brocade Communications Systems Inc., in San Jose, Calif.
Interoperability with switches from McData Corp., of Broomfield, Colo., was announced earlier this month, but its not a resale deal. NetApp works with Cisco Systems Inc. for networking issues, but not switches, and has no partnerships with Computer Network Technology Corp.s Inrange division or QLogic Corp. In addition, the company could use more partners for its gFiler product, analysts said. That product NAS-enables third-party SAN systems, but Hitachi Ltd. is currently the only partner.
NetApp is in talks with multiple, unspecified vendors to address both areas, Clifton said.
(Editors Note: This story has been updated since its original posting due to incorrect information supplied by the vendor.)