Network Appliance this week brought out the latest version of its Data ONTAP software, which it said creates a grid storage architecture on its appliances by creating an abstraction layer between application servers, storage controllers and disk arrays.
NetApp's new Data ONTAP 7G software uses a single global name space to give storage administrators a single view of storage resources and pools processing power across its network-attached storage (NAS) arrays, said Chris Bennett, director of marketing at NetApp.
The new Data ONTAP version also adds the FlexVol tool, which allows volumes or identifiable units of storage to be spread across disk spindles in a logical manner for greater resiliency and higher performance, Bennett said.
FlexVol also lets storage administrators set policies around storage provisioning that allow volumes to grow on the fly according to how much space business applications need. For example, a volume can present itself to an application server as 10TB in size, but only be 1TB in size until the application needs the additional capacity, saving unused disk space.
Mike Forman, group director of North American IT at Cadence Design Systems Inc. in San Jose, said the flexible volumes will allow him to create more accurate chargeback models to his users. "You can assign a 500GB LUN (logical unit number) to a user and if he's only using 50GB of the 500GB you can take the other 450GB and give it to someone else and the user never knows about it. We've been asking for this for years," Forman said.
Because there is no preallocation of storage, utilization rates are far higher, Bennett said. Performance is almost doubled because the data is shared across disk array trays, allowing more than one engine to process I/O commands.
Policies can also be set to flag administrators when disk capacity use reaches specified thresholds, allowing them to add additional physical storage capacity, NetApp said.
Tony Asaro, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said NetApp's "thin provisioning" software is unique in the sense that no other leading storage vendor currently offers it. "To me, it's one of the most useful things. This is one of the top things I recommend to storage vendors to support," he said.
The Data ONTAP 7G release includes a new tool called FlexClone, which performs snapshots or point-in-time replication of data sets for test, development and simulation scenarios. The snapshots, which require no disk space, can be manipulated and tested without affecting the initial data set, Bennett said.
NetApp also said today that its NAS engine, the gFiler, can now serve up block-level data either through a Fibre Channel or Internet SCSI protocol. ISCSI allows block-level data transfers to occur over ubiquitous Ethernet.
Forman is also in the process of purchasing four or five more gFilers to add to his existing six filers. He currently uses them to serve up files from a pool of about 150TB of IBM Enterprise Storage Server arrays.
The latest version of the NAS engine can also use arrays from Hewlett-Packard as its back-end storage. Previously, the gFiler supported only arrays from IBM and Hitachi Data Systems, Bennetts said.
NetApp said all of the new products are available immediately. FlexVol is bundled without charge with Data ONTAP.