NAS and SAN: A market for both?
I am constantly amazed with the amount of misinformation that circulates in the market over the network attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) technologies. We have been in the storage distribution business for 10 years and have never seen such misunderstanding within the market as exists with these technologies.
We regularly do presentations with the reseller channel about the storage marketplace and we have been focusing our time on the NAS range of technologies as they are shipping and ready for market. Below are some points, which I would like to raise.
1) The market is totally confused and often believes that, because both acronyms have the same letters they mean the same thing.
2) The SAN market is currently at the stage where the hardware is ahead of the software.
3) There are still hardware interoperability issues between switch vendors. You have to go with a single switch vendor or you end up in trouble with your SAN.
4) The software to manage SANs is not there yet. There is nothing available that can centrally manage every aspect of a SAN.
5) One of the foundations of a SAN is where everyone sees all the data. This cannot be accomplished today - it is still too early.
6) Where is the shared file system that everyone is talking about? The big issue here is the performance versus the reliability parameters. What is the best combination? This has also not been solved as yet by the vendors.
Don't get me wrong, we are as interested in SANs as everybody else. We just do not see it as a technology that is ready for customer use, as yet. We see SANs being totally over-hyped by some major market players. The result of this is mass confusion within the channel itself. I wonder what the end user thinks?On the other hand, NAS is 100 per cent ready for use and is being installed by our resellers and our competitor resellers daily.
NAS is being purchased today, for the following reasons:1) Minimal Operating Architecture - the OS is a subset, not a full-blown, proprietary system. This results in no pre-seat operating system licences. The results is solid cost savings.
2) Ease of installation - typically takes less than 15 minutes. IP is everything.
3) Easy to deploy in work-groups as it only requires skills of a knowledgeable department employee rather than dedicated IT personnel. A major national rollout becomes very straightforward.
4) Systems rely on browser-based software for remote configuration and management.
5) Share data between NT and UNIX users.
6) The storage is incredibly inexpensive.
7) No server down time - You can leave your servers to run the applications which also result in faster responses to those applications.
8) The total cost of ownership is low as the maintenance is minimal, especially when you have RAID solutions with dual power suppliers, spare drives, etc.
9) Systems can be configured to be part of the enterprise backup scheme so there is no additional software to load.
10) They are extremely expandable; if you want more data you have it by simply adding more.
11) Supported clients include Novell, Windows 95, 98, NT and workgroups, HTTP 1.0 and HTML 2.0.
12) How much hard disk capacity do you need? From 20GB through to Terrabytes of RAID storage is available.
NAS is a technology that is available now and the rate of adoption is increasing. NAS and SAN technologies will and can coexist. The major difference between NAS and SAN is that NAS is easy to integrate and SAN is complex.
The technologies, as I see it, do not compete with each other. Each has its place in the data storage market. However, NAS is ready and shipping today whereas SAN is still not what I would call a market-ready technology.
Robert Ekgeneral manager
Optistor (formerly SCSI Corporation)