FAS900 Series Appliances
NAS or SAN? Network Appliances FAS960 (FAS stands for Fabric Attached Storage) answers that question by providing both in a single, powerful solution.
After years of fighting with SAN vendors, Network Appliance has turned the tables on its competition by providing customers with a solution that has the benefits of both file- and block-level storage, with a single point of storage management.
During tests of the FAS960, part of the FAS900 Series, eWEEK Labs was impressed by the appliances manageability and flexibility.
In fact, flexibility is a major benefit. In tests, we could easily hook into our test unit using a Fibre Channel SAN connection or via IP-based CIFS file sharing. IT managers can easily shift resources to either the NAS or SAN side as storage needs change and as new applications are deployed.
The FAS960 (see photo on left) can scale to as much as 48 terabytes of storage (up to 8 terabytes in a single file system). In our test configuration, we had 4 terabytes of raw storage running on a single FAS960 head unit.
In the FAS960, LUNs (logical unit numbers) are carved out of volumes. Network Appliance officials recommend that storage managers configure the volume size to be three times the size of each LUN (a 1-terabyte LUN on a 3-terabyte volume). According to company officials, this configuration will allow IT managers to use Network Appliances SnapShot feature for data protection. In tests, SnapShot allowed us to quickly make a copy of our data that we could restore in the event of a data volume corruption.
After we had created our test LUNs, we used the FAS960s management tools to assign the LUNs to our server. The FAS960 uses standard Fibre Channel WWNN (World Wide Node Name) and WWPN (World Wide Port Name) addresses to link targets to initiators, so anyone with Fibre Channel SAN experience should be able to plug an FAS960 appliance into a SAN.
By default, the FAS960 masks all LUNs until they are assigned to a host. During setup, the FAS960 formatted the LUNs of our Windows 2000 server to Windows NTFS (NT File System) so we could use them immediately.
The FAS960 has the ability to dynamically resize LUNs, but its important to note that the capabilities of the host operating system will determine the effectiveness of this capability. For example, Windows doesnt allow dynamic disks to be resized, while Solaris supports an increase in LUN sizes but not a decrease.
For our test application, we used Microsoft Corp.s Exchange 2000 running on a Hewlett-Packard Co. four-way ProLiant server; we moved the Exchange data store from local disks to LUNs on our FAS960.
To hook the HP server into our SAN, we installed an Emulex Corp. host bus adapter into the server, loaded up the device driver and ran a quick script from Network Appliance to make registry changes.
The FAS960, which became available in October, ranges in price from $150,000 to more than $1 million, depending on configuration. With Fibre Channel interoperability still imperfect, and considering that the FAS960 is fairly new, IT managers should carefully test for hardware compatibility before investing in a unit.