Next-Generation NAS

A number of startups have emerged that are making nas solutions more scalable and easier to manage.

A number of startups have emerged that are making NAS solutions more scalable and easier to manage.

BlueArc, Isilon Systems, OnStor and others are pushing the limits of network-attached storage, weaving their way into markets typically dominated by the likes of Network Appliance, EMC and Hewlett-Packard.

Isilons Isilon IQ was created to help IT managers deal with the storage of reference data, and, as such, it does well when tasked with serving up digital video, audio and

documents. If you happened to watch NBCs Winter Olympics coverage or if you or your kids have a profile on MySpace, you have probably already been exposed to Isilons technology.

Isilon IQs clustering capabilities allow IT managers to add performance modules (CPUs, memory or networking) or storage modules (Serial ATA or Fibre Channel disk shelves) on the fly without disrupting the cluster or complicating namespaces. Using multiple cluster nodes, an Isilon IQ cluster can scale up to 528TB on a single network drive.

An Isilon IQ cluster is not a good solution for transaction-intensive applications such as databases and e-mail servers because Isilons hardware and software are not optimized for those kinds of workloads.

That said, Isilon clusters can still be useful as a complementary storage tier, sitting aside high-performance Fibre Channel storage arrays. (Look for a review of Isilon IQ in a future issue of eWEEK and at

BlueArcs Titan 2000 series of NAS appliances combine hardware acceleration technologies, tiered storage and NAS virtualization into a potent solution. BlueArcs claim to fame has always been its products impressive performance capabilities, which have won the vendor accounts in organizations like research centers and movie studios, where hardware is typically pushed to the breaking point.

For the past few years, I have been keeping track of the development of BlueArcs Titan server, and I like how the company has gradually added new technologies to the platform, including iSCSI, replication and WORM features.

With these technologies in place, and with the appliances NAS virtualization capabilities, BlueArc is making its platform more relevant for corporate IT.

Another startup worth checking out is OnStor, whose Clustered NAS Gateways can be used in conjunction with existing Fibre Channel SAN (storage area network) storage to provide potent file sharing. The OnStor Bobcat NAS Gateway, for example, allows IT managers to get more out of their SAN investments and can scale to grow with client needs.