The Direction of Storage Convergence

eLABorations: Big system strengths-storage consolidation and simplified management-are on their way into the NAS market

Over the last few months, I have seen EMC, Hitachi Data Systems and other large storage vendors expanding the functionality of their behemoth systems. The big guys are throwing everything from iSCSI to NAS capabilities into their boxes as they try to stay relevant and expand market share.

The big question that needs to be asked is, why throw tons of money at a solution to give you the file sharing capabilities that currently cost a fraction of that amount? The short answer is that storage consolidation and simplified management are highly desirable and they are strengths seen in large storage units.

These benefits, however, may soon find a way into the NAS market.

NAS in general is limited on a scalability basis by the head units. As NAS solutions scale, the only way to make them larger is by adding head units, which increases management costs because each head unit is an "extra" that requires management.

However, this will change as new technologies emerge that make NAS more scalable and easier to manage. Other innovations that are around the corner will have a major impact on industrial-strength storage as well.

Current rack-dense 1U servers have more CPU horsepower than the fastest four-way servers did a few years ago, and deliver pretty good performance for less than $10,000 a server. With these high-performance, low-cost servers available, the pain of adding extra head units will certainly lessen.

Also on the horizon is new file-switching technology, being developed by Z-Force, that will allow NAS solutions to scale up in performance and capacity without adding management headaches.

Using a Z-Force file switch, IT managers will be able to add head units on the fly while eliminating a lot of the management overhead associated with NAS farms (such as dealing with name-space issues like drive mapping and locating resources).

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at