Behind The Acronym: What Does NAS Really Mean?HAL Hal: see Halle, Belgium.
In Sufism, a state of mind reached from time to time by mystics during their journey toward God. The ahwal (plural of hal) are God-given graces that appear when a soul is purified of its attachments to the material world. : SANs, SANs, SANs! That's all you hear about these days.
MARK: It's all we've talked about for a while.
HAL: Right. We haven't paid much attention to NAS (1) See network access server.
(2) (Network Attached Storage) A specialized file server that connects to the network. A NAS device contains a slimmed-down operating system and a file system and processes only I/O requests by supporting the popular , which is still a bigger business.
MARK: SAN gets all the attention because the numbers in the bottom lines are so big. One SAN installation can put a VAR's kids through college.
HAL: By contrast, you can get a terrific NAS device for a few hundred dollars--well, a few thousand, anyway, but if anybody needs proof that NAS is a strategic business to be in, think about this: IBM (International Business Machines Corporation, Armonk, NY, www.ibm.com) The world's largest computer company. IBM's product lines include the S/390 mainframes (zSeries), AS/400 midrange business systems (iSeries), RS/6000 workstations and servers (pSeries), Intel-based servers (xSeries) is going into the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) The rebranding of equipment and selling it. The term initially referred to the company that made the products (the "original" manufacturer), but eventually became widely used to refer to the organization that buys the products and network storage business.
MARK: IBM? They're actually willing to strip off their blue nameplates and sell black boxes?
HAL: They've created a line of OEM products that they call StorageSmart, starting with a RAID array. Remember last year, when IBM bought Mylex? That's where the RAID controllers A disk controller card that supports one or more RAID configurations. Originally only for SCSI drives, RAID controllers have become very popular for PATA and SATA drives. See RAID. come from.
MARK: Well, IBM doesn't go around buying companies for no good reason: They evidently wanted a turnkey technology from Mylex, but, does this mean that they're diluting their high-end storage product, the one they call Shark?
HAL: No, this is a small-scale product, targeted at the NT and Unix server A medium to large-scale computer system in a network that runs under Unix. Unix servers are widely used as application servers and database servers and are available from a variety of vendors, including Sun, IBM, HP and others. market. Their first StorageSmart RAID will compete directly against what Data General--excuse me, it's EMC (1) (EMC Corporation, Hopkinton, MA, www.emc.com) The leading supplier of storage products for midrange computers and mainframes. Founded in 1979 by Richard J. Egan and Roger Marino, EMC has developed advanced storage and retrieval technologies for the world's largest companies. now--what EMC is offering in the Clariion line. IBM calls theirs the ProFibre Array: It's a 19-inch rack mount system, scalable from 9GB to 2.8TB.
MARK: Wow! 2.8TB. That ought to move a lot of IBM drives.
HAL: Get this--it's not only IBM's drives. They've cut a deal with Seagate, so if somebody orders more drives than they've got on hand, they'll mix Seagate drives into the box. Apparently, the enclosure is optimized for all their qualified drives.
MARK: I think, sometimes, that people underestimate the importance of the enclosure. It has to do a lot more than just keep dust off the platters.
HAL: No argument there! The enclosure's where the power supply and fan are and, in the best of them, those components are hot swappable See hot swap. too, just like the drives.
MARK: Judging from the "ProFibre" name, does this mean that IBM has finally driven a stake through the heart of its proprietary SSA (Serial Storage Architecture) A fault tolerant peripheral interface from IBM that transfers data at 80 and 160 Mbytes/sec. SSA uses SCSI commands, allowing existing software to drive SSA peripherals, which are typically disk drives. interface and that this OEM product-line will be Fibre Channel only?
HAL: It'll be the customer's choice: fibre or SCSI SCSI
in full Small Computer System Interface
Once common standard for connecting peripheral devices (disks, modems, printers, etc.) to small and medium-sized computers. SCSI has given way to faster standards, such as Firewire and USB. , but this is definitely the last nail in the coffin of SSA.
MARK: I'm thinking . . . this doesn't really sound like a NAS device to me.
HAL: Why not?
MARK: Most of the NAS boxes A network attached storage device. See NAS and box. that I've seen have an Ethernet connection and are designed to be utterly simple to install, right out of the box. You set a MAC address or plug it into an Ethernet port A socket on a computer or network device for plugging in an Ethernet cable. See WAN port. and let your server seek it out and you're up and running. This ProFibre box sounds more like a drive or a RAID with a SCSI cable to the computer. Where's the "network" aspect?
HAL: You're forgetting that this can also be connected by fibre.
MARK: Okay, on an end-to-end fibre network, maybe, but I doubt that this will look or feel like other NAS devices, either from a performance or management standpoint.
HAL: Would you agree that this StorageSmart product line could be a hot performer?
MARK: Sure. It may lose something in its network manageability aspects, and it may be somewhat harder to install than what most people expect from NAS-you know, like the Quantum's SnapServer or Maxtor's MaxAttach products, but it'll probably run rings around any "standard" NAS device.
HAL: You mean because it's not connected over Ethernet?
MARK: Right. Data can be moved over the network only at network speeds. In most cases, the hard drives that are installed in these NAS devices can put out data faster than the network can move it. On NAS systems with multiple drives, the relatively slow network speeds can probably make drives on a NAS feel awfully slow, although I'm told that some NAS devices, even over a 100Mbit Ethernet can still outform some NT file servers.
HAL: So, is this a NAS device or isn't it? How do you distinguish plain old plug-in storage devices from true network-attached storage See NAS. devices?
MARK: Maybe the old definitions are changing. The IBM StorageSmart OEM line you described . . . I just don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. what to call it. If it really is a NAS device, it will be the first pure fibre NAS that I've seen, although network-attached devices seem to be moving into this higher capacity space.
HAL: Such as?
MARK: Maxtor briefed me about a rack-mountable NAS that they're planning to release later this year. By moving just a couple drives out of their own box and making a system that's rack-mountable, Maxtor could be going after the same OEM customers that IBM is also going after. Quantum isn't sitting around, either. They're announcing a 120MB rack with RAID 5 built in.
HAL: You maybe right. IBM told me their OEM group is aiming not just at "Joe VAR" but at "the Dells of the world," too. They'll be adding Linux support later this year. Clearly, they're looking at the lower end of the server market.
MARK: Did I really hear the words "IBM" and "lower end of the market" in the same sentence? Are you sure it was IBM you talked to?
HAL: Very funny! Seriously, everybody's been focused on the high end, the SAN end, for a while, but storage is a cyclical cyclical
Of or relating to a variable, such as housing starts, car sales, or the price of a certain stock, that is subject to regular or irregular up-and-down movements. business and it's time It's Time was a successful political campaign run by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) under Gough Whitlam at the 1972 election in Australia. Campaigning on the perceived need for change after 23 years of conservative (Liberal Party of Australia) government, Labor put forward a for the low end of the market to make a comeback this year.
MARK: I've been thinking that the SnapServer type of NAS device is going to be the sort-of "floppy disk" of the server market: That little bit of extra storage that you suddenly find you need and that--to your delight--you can install at the last moment. It may not be just a "low end revival"--it may really be a matter of people getting what works for them; it can be purchased on a company credit card, can be easily installed, and meets their needs.
HAL: Right. Or it's that extra backup device See backup storage. you can add in whenever you want.
MARK: Exactly. Now, a 19 inch rack mount box is more of a permanent installation, but a fairly flexible installation, to be sure. You can stay at a dozen or two dozen gigabytes and you don't have to go all the way up to a Shark or its EMC equivalents with a room of its own. By the way, did IBM say anything about pricing for its ProFibre line?
HAL: Yes. A street price starting just under $20,000; so I figure that the OEM price will be somewhere between $12,000-$15,000.
MARK: $20,000 for a 9GB drive? Well, NAS devices do seem to carry high price tags, but I wonder if that will continue. You can buy a 9GB drive at retail for less than $200.
HAL: Well, with NAS you get the enclosure too! Don't laugh--people who make enclosures have buttonholed me at trade shows and now I'm persuaded that the enclosure is more than just a box. It has to be shock resistant, ventilated ven·ti·late
tr.v. ven·ti·lat·ed, ven·ti·lat·ing, ven·ti·lates
1. To admit fresh air into (a mine, for example) to replace stale or noxious air.
2. , and have sensors and a feedback loop to keep it from overheating Overheating
An economy that is growing very quickly, with the risk of high inflation. . The power supply has to be hot swappable too, not just the drives.
MARK: Even the low end SnapServer and MaxAttach products with two 9GB hard drives sell for around a thousand dollars. if you want to add another 9GB drive, you'll pay many hundreds. Hewlett-Packard showed me a NAS device with four 9GB drives and a DDS-4 tape drive and their list price is something like $6,000. Aren't we talking about maybe only $2,000 worth of drives, a box with a disk interface and some networking hardware Networking hardware typically refers to equipment facilitating the use of a computer network. Typically, this includes routers, switches, access points, network interface cards and other related hardware. ? The truly low-end NAS boxes aren't even using SCSI--they have IDE drives inside them--and those drives retail for less than $150. What's going on What's Going On is a record by American soul singer Marvin Gaye. Released on May 21, 1971 (see 1971 in music), What's Going On reflected the beginning of a new trend in soul music. ?
HAL: I think you're talking about bare drives, there. If you have a server that's got to be up 24/7, you need a NAS device that'll keep pace with it. You need a whole RAID, not just one HDD (Hard Disk Drive) See hard disk and HDD caddy.
HDD - hard disk drive . Everything's got to be hot swappable. The controller has to be matched to the drives' characteristics. There's a value-add in the NAS business. You're buying security and engineering, not just hardware.
MARK: At the rack-mount level, okay, but not at the low end. Some of the products are single-drive boxes with Ethernet connections or maybe even with IDE drives inside. That's my idea of a "typical" NAS device. Maybe it's not a performance-screamer, but it provides users with more storage, wherever and whenever it's needed.
HAL: With IBM staking out the Fibre side of life and being no fools, I'm sure theirs doesn't come as IDE.
MARK: I don't think that the IBM ProFibre line has what it takes to make their product a true NAS device. I mean, there's Network Attached Storage and then there's storage. If it connects to the server with SCSI, it's just another bunch of drives.
HAL: Don't forget, though, that this has Fibre connections available. You can connect it to a fibre network, which--by your own criteria--should make it a NAS device. When you're up in the tens-of-thousands-of-dollar range, you ought to get something that has to be specially configured and I'm saying that's a good thing.
MARK: Sure, Hal, this may attach to a system, but I doubt whether it's a true Network Attached Storage device.
HAL: Well, what else can you call a drive array that can be attached to a network? It's NAS, even if it doesn't have a discrete network connection. If the device is accessible over the network, I say it's NAS.
MARK: Then by that definition, the drive on my workstation is "network attached storage." And if I open up that workstation and install another drive, then I'm "adding another NAS drive." Nope! I don't think the definition of a NAS is being made clearer by IBM's new OEM product line, but I want to hear what our readers think, if you agree that a NAS must, at the very least, connect to the network through a network attachment and/or a MAC address, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HAL: I think your definition is too constricting con·strict
v. con·strict·ed, con·strict·ing, con·stricts
1. To make smaller or narrower by binding or squeezing.
2. To squeeze or compress.
3. , Mark. If you have a storage device that's dedicated for use over a network, it shouldn't matter how it's physically addressed. If you agree with me or have some other thoughts on what a NAS is or isn't, e-mail me at email@example.com.