RealTime IT News

IBM Fits NAS Gateway With POWER Chips

Emboldened by demand for a stronger network-attached storage gateway, IBM on Tuesday introduced a new storage product to zip files across IT networks.

NAS devices are file servers and IBM competes with vendors such as EMC, Network Appliance and HP in this space. Although the proliferation of more comprehensive storage area network (SAN) products has become great, many companies still employ NAS boxes.

To compromise, IBM and others have rolled out NAS "gateways," which is essentially a box without storage in it. Instead, storage is added, whether it be NAS or SAN, to help customers accommodate the architecture in their data centers.

The gateway connects various data sources to one access point, without spreading out into the dreaded remote islands of storage that customers are trying to steer clear of.

The new IBM TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500 system is a big step up from the Armonk, N.Y. company's previous NAS Gateway 300 product, IBM NAS product manager David Vaughn told internetnews.com.

While that product relied on Intel chips, the 500 is the first based on POWER 4 chips and is 150 percent faster than its predecessor.

This is in part because of the chip architecture, which Vaughn said is unique in that it can be configured in a single, two-processor node, or a two-node cluster of four processors for extra power to drive such enterprise characteristics as active clustering and remote mirroring.

Enterprise Storage Group analyst Steve Kenniston said such gateways are becoming increasingly popular as storage needs grow in enterprises.

"The gateway premise is pretty important because reference data is growing at such a fast rate," Kenniston told internetnews.com. "Nearly 50 percent of SAN capacity goes unused and gateways allow businesses to tap into unused capacity on a SAN. IT folks don't want to purchase NAS storage because it's expensive. Gateways give them a way to put a NAS head, or fibre channel connect on an Ethernet front-end to take advantage of the unused capacity. It's essentially making SAN block-based storage into file-based storage."

Customers have demanded an enterprise-class grade gateway from IBM to deal with heavy lifting applications and large numbers of files, as well as products from other vendors. To that end, the NAS Gateway 500 enables storage from disparate vendors such as HP and Hitachi to work seamlessly when combined with IBM's SAN Volume Controller software.

The 500 also features memory chip fail-over, which means that if one processor in a four-processor cluster fails, the gateway and system manages to operate "very gracefully" with just three processors, Vaughn said.

NAS Gateway 500 is optimized for POWER 4 on IBM's own AIX operating system, but also supports UNIX, Linux and Windows environments. It is geared to provide file serving for IBM eServers, IBM TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server and IBM TotalStorage FAStT products.

With a starting price of $60,000, IBM TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500 will become generally available through IBM on Feb. 6.

Big Blue's POWER architecture has been getting quite a bit of play of late. IBM made some POWER related announcements at LinuxWorld last week, and just today IBM announced performance upgrades to its a 8-way p655 Unix server.

The machine now uses 1.7 GHz POWER4+ chips, offering nearly 20 percent more performance at the same price as the previous p655 machine, which used 1.5 GHz POWER4+ chips. Moreover, a new DC Power Converter Assembly allows up to four 8GB or 16GB memory cards, doubling the memory capacity to 64GB for 1.5 and 1.7 GHz p655 systems.

Like the NAS Gateway 500, the reinvigorated p655 is slated for release February 6.