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NAS Gateways simplify file serving for Windows environments.

Deploying a NAS (Network Attached Storage) Gateway is the intelligent approach to solving a broad range of network-based file-serving issues that enterprise customers are facing, especially in large Windows environments. These users are challenged by the inherent limitations of the traditional approach of deploying dozens of servers or forced to utilize appliances that don't offer optimal NAS functionality. As a result, administrators are faced with multiple storage management issues, including:

* Proliferation of File Servers

* High acquisition, deployment, support and management costs of standard servers

* Inefficient usage of available storage resources

* Low availability of server and data (non-clustered)

* Difficult and cumbersome backup and restore

* NAS appliances running proprietary operating systems not optimized for specific OS environments

* Standalone solutions with built-in storage leading to vendor lock-ins for storage upgrade

New NAS Gateways versus Traditional Filers and Appliances

The traditional NAS server is simply a general-purpose application server based on a PC-class architecture running an operating system with a file system that supports Windows or Unix clients. The hardware platform provides no special capabilities or advantages for running storage applications--such as NAS--more efficiently than any other host-based applications--such as database or messaging software. These standard servers require highly skilled IT resources for maintenance, upgrade and troubleshooting, thereby dramatically increasing the cost of operating these systems. Most enterprises have invested in a variety of storage arrays; however, traditional NAS solutions are designed only to work with the respective vendor's own storage. This not only results in under-utilization of existing investments, but also in vendor lock-in that reduces the users' ability to select the best storage resource that fits their needs in the future.

NAS appliances were designed to eliminate the high cost of managing general-purpose servers, but have the same pitfall of poor storage resource utilization. SANs (Storage Area Networks) were designed for the dual purpose of improving performance during storage and retrieval of data and also of reducing traffic over a LAN. Since NAS appliances are deployed as independent storage devices, they do not take advantage of SANs, making backup and convergence of storage networks more complex. And because NAS appliances are based on a proprietary OS that has not been optimized for large Windows environments, they do not provide sufficient native support for devices to become full members of existing domains.

A simple yet high-value NAS solution must start with a versatile hardware platform optimized for running storage applications as an appliance. An enterprise-class solution must also address the requirements of data centers that need scalable NAS solutions to connect to a heterogeneous SAN, as well as departmental requirements for the system to connect to lower cost storage resources. NAS Gateways were developed to address all of the limitations of traditional approach with fully integrated solutions that deliver high-performance, high-availability file serving, NAS-SAN integration and server consolidation. Enterprise-class NAS gateways enable customers to achieve improved ROI by increased utilization of existing Fibre Channel SAN storage. Consolidating NAS files onto SAN-based storage can significantly reduce storage TCO (total cost of ownership) by enabling centralized management of all storage assets.

Highly Available, Interoperable Solutions for Heterogeneous Storage

Users can simplify the installation process with NAS Gateways that are fully preintegrated with the NAS software and required system-specific middleware software layer for a plug and play exper-ience. Customers are better served with NAS systems designed and tested for compatibility with third-party SAN products and are interoperable with most storage networks. These NAS Gateways connect to heterogeneous disk array systems, preventing vendor lock-in and giving customers the freedom to choose the vendor and class of storage that best fits their specific requirements.

The ideal NAS systems are designed for maximum availability and reliability, including redundant hardware architecture and the additional availability functions that provide hardware and software monitoring. NAS gateways can be easily deployed as clustered systems to protect against the complete failure of any individual system. Dynamic multi-pathing of Fibre Channel ports and link aggregation on Ethernet ports provides redundant connections between the appliance and storage or the appliance and the host. The system, while optimized to exclusively run network storage applications, must also meet the 99.999 percent uptime demands of enterprise storage environments. Built-in middleware software layer provides hardware and software monitoring and a set of utilities to ensure that the system operates at enterprise-class availability.

NAS for Windows

A NAS system built with Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 (WSS) is best suited for Windows environments. It simplifies management by taking advantage of existing Active Directory policies to centrally manage Windows Powered NAS using Group Policy, Kerberos Authentication, and Encrypted File System. Native support for Active Directory allows devices to become full members of existing domains. High-availability configurations can be deployed with support for two-node fail-over clustering using Microsoft Cluster Service. In addition, existing group policies can be used to manage access to Windows storage devices, which is not the case for NAS appliances using other operating systems than Windows.

The integrated storage services in WSS 2003 have been enhanced and expanded to include a number of new features, which help businesses control storage management costs and increase availability of data. Software services such as the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) and the Virtual Disk Service (VDS) make it easier to manage and maintain disks, helping lower total cost of ownership especially in complex multi-vendor storage environments. Point-in-time imaging capability through VSS simplifies and speeds up both backups and restores. The Shadow Copies for Shared Folders functions of VSS enables endusers to restore their own files and folders without IT intervention. High availability is enabled through multi-pathing and clustering.

Virtual Disk Service (VDS) is a key development for WSS 2003 that allows it to be seamlessly deployed as a NAS Gateway to access SAN-based storage resources. The VDS feature enables IT managers to easily configure and manage storage resources--both physical and logical--assigned to Windows Storage Server 2003. Prior to Windows Storage Server 2003 it was necessary for the system administrator to configure each device using a vendor-specific storage management application, making NAS deployment complex, time consuming and costly. This function takes on added significance when using WSS with a NAS gateway appliance to connect to backend SAN storage. WSS 2003's Virtual Disk Service helps alleviate these administration complexities in a NAS backend SAN configuration by providing a single management interface for multi-vendor storage devices, enabling an administrator to manage all storage devices directly from a single management console. Query and configuration operations are common across all managed devices, regardless of whether the storage is NAS-based or SAN-based.

Suggested NAS Gateway with Integrated Windows Storage Server 2003

Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 is the ideal software platform for NAS Gateways that deliver the performance, scalability, availability and flexibility to take advantage of the feature-rich WSS 2003 environment for departmental, data center and remote sites. Just as Windows Storage Servers is a new generation of enterprise NAS software, it functions best when matched by a next-generation hardware platform designed specifically for enterprise NAS applications, including NAS-SAN consolidation. The NAS hardware platforms that meet these requirements are the MaXXan SG110 and SG210 NAS Gateways. The SG110 is a 2U rack mount NAS gateway ideal for deployment in departments or remote offices, while the MaXXan SG210 is an application blade powered by Windows Storage Server 2003 integrated into a MaXXan MXV320 director-class Intelligent Application Switch for use in data centers.

The extensive functionality of Windows Storage Server 2003 can easily be compromised if it is not combined with a similar high-value NAS hardware platform that can satisfy the full range of WSS NAS deployments, ranging from a standard NAS file serving and Windows server consolidation to a remote replication and NAS-SAN gateway. MaXXan's innovative NAS Gateway solutions amplify the benefits of Windows Storage Server 2003 to deliver a true enterprise-class NAS solution that simplifies the deployment and management of network storage while providing the best ROI and TCO of any WSS NAS solution.
Highlights NAS Servers NAS Appliances NAS Gateways

Uses existing heterogeneous Maybe No Yes
storage resources

Lowest cost of management No Yes Yes

Integrates with SAN Maybe No Yes

Pre-installed software for No Yes Yes
easy deployment and high
availability

Can be used with Yes No Yes
non-proprietary OS for better
support in Windows
environment

Optimized for best No Yes Yes
performance as a file server

Fast backup performance No No Yes

NAS Servers, Appliances and Gateways Comparison


www.maxxan.com

Ravi Chalaka is vice president of marketing at MaXXan Systems (San Jose, CA)
COPYRIGHT 2004 West World Productions, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Storage Management; Network Attached Storage Gateways
Author:Chalaka, Ravi
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:1409
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