NetApp Moves Closer To ‘Storage Grid’

Network Appliance Tuesday plans to unveil new storage systems and software at its annual analyst meeting to demonstrate the company’s progress toward a “storage grid” architecture.

The use of grid technology to throw resources from many computers at a task at once is becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s information technology realm. With Oracle making it the focus of its database and application server software, close ally NetApp has similar designs, according to Mark Santora, senior vice president of marketing at Network Appliance.

Santora told the Sunnyvale, Calif. company is aiming to corral more market share as a less expensive alternative to major vendors IBM , EMC and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS).

First, NetApp introduced two new storage platforms to form a family with the FAS900. The FAS980 and the clustered FAS980c feature both file and block capabilities, as well as improvements in capacity, scalability, and performance. The systems are geared to handle enterprise-scale database and applications for customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP), including large e-mail document and file management loads.

The NetApp FAS980 and FAS980c run the company’s new Data ONTAP 6.5 operating system and offer file access for Network File System (NFS) and block access over Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) and iSCSI . The systems also support capacities up to 64 terabytes for clustered systems and 32TB for single systems.

Steve Kenniston, senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group, said the new products bring NetApp’s scope further into the high-end after a year when rivals all upgraded their large storage systems.

Santora said NetApp is also upgrading its gFiler product to become a true storage area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) gateway, a product that is becoming increasingly necessary for customers as they purchase devices and software with different architectures.

NetApp’s gFiler is a storage appliance that fits into Fibre Channel SAN fabrics and consolidates different Direct Access Storage (DAS) devices , NAS, and SAN islands into a common open storage pool. It features iSCSI support, making it more attractive to parties looking for low-cost storage. GFiler also features new load distribution software called NetApp SnapMover, which is designed for SANs.

gFiler, which became compatible with HDS products in December 2002 will also support IBM storage systems going forward. IBM Global Services will also provide professional services to ensure successful worldwide deployments of NetApp gFiler with IBM Storage. gFiler for IBM storage systems will be sold by NetApp through its direct sales and channel partners. The GF960, GF940, and GF825 and clustered versions scale in capacity to 48TB.

A storage portfolio refresh wouldn’t be complete without enhancements to a company’s backup, compliance, reference, archive products. NetApp said its NearStore R200 storage system now scales from 8TB to 96TB. SnapVault stores “snapshot” copies from multiple local and remote heterogeneous storage systems to a NearStore system and now supports Microsoft Windows 2003, Linux, AIX, IRIX and Solaris 9.

Lastly on the technology front, Santora described a new storage protection technology he said NetApp is excited about: RAID-DP technology. While most RAID systems feature fail over features for the loss of a single disk drive, RAID-DP ups the ante to two, which is something other companies don’t offer, he said. RAID-DP safeguards data from the loss of multiple disk drives as an alternative to the disk-mirroring approaches of NetApp’s competitors.

Gartner analyst Roger Cox said that with disk capacity doubling every six months, disk error correction code capabilities have not kept pace. Accordingly, a double-parity configuration shields customers against multiple drive failures, he said.

RAID-DP is supported on NetApp NearStore and NetApp FAS storage systems and is available in the new 6.5 version of the NetApp Data ONTAP storage micro kernel.

NetApp said it has also inked an agreement with Cisco Systems to sell its storage systems work with the Cisco MDS 9000 Family of Multilayer Intelligent directors and fabric storage area networking (SAN) switches. NetApp will announce reseller agreement involving ILM, compliance and disk-based protection with VERITAS Software Tuesday as well.

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