Bring on the fans

Bring on the fans

There's a new storage kid in town. Move over SANs and make room for FANs, which are popping up on the radar screen and finding a footing in the increasingly sexy storage market. Some companies are already seeing the benefits of adopting a file area network (FAN) in a bid to deal with bulging data at remote locations and branch offices.

With storage demands rising, companies are looking to manage the growth, complexity and costs of their data, particularly unstructured file-based information, which is sprouting up faster than weeds in a garden.

According to US-based research firm, the Taneja Group, 62 per cent of global IT decision makers have identified file management as a major priority requiring immediate attention in the data centre. So what is it and why all the hype? FANs are a new, logical approach to file management describing the hardware and software technologies that help organise, route, switch and provide consistent access to massive amounts of files, according to the technology analyst firm. Essentially, a FAN refers to various methods of sharing files over a network such as storage devices connected to a file server or network attached storage (NAS).


Just as the SAN transformed the enterprise landscape in the 1990s by offering a platform for shared storage resources, the industry is now ready to extend the 'area network' further and reinvent file management.

While FAN adoption is already well underway in the US, the rollout is still one step at a time in the local market.

Brocade country manager, Graham Schultz, said FANs should be thought of as a collection of technologies. "FANs are not a single product, but a concept which comprises a number of different components, just as a SAN is not a switch, or an array or the server, but a combination of technologies," he said.

"Whereas SANs are block-based data, FANs are file-based. It is a collection of systems and software enabling centralised management of data. It is a concept people are trying to wrap their heads around."

Key FAN components include a storage subsystem (network-attached storage or a file server), distance extension solutions including wide area file services, namespace or routing software and additional management software.

Given 60 per cent of data is unstructured file data, which may not be managed through corporate policies or addressed by the traditional SAN, Schultz said there was a huge opportunity for resellers to pitch FANs.

"We need to move to the next frontier in terms of file management," he said. "People are latching onto the FAN concept because of the dynamics of Australia in terms of the vast geographical spread. There are real challenges in managing remote branches."

The goal of the FAN is to offer a scalable, cost effective and intelligent platform for enterprise file management, he said.

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