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NAS virtualization simplifies file storage management.

Today's IT organizations face a number of challenges in their file storage environments driven by the ongoing growth in storage capacity, increasingly complex storage management environments and more demanding compliance regulations. Low capacity utilization, disruptive data management and performance scaling issues have been persistent problems in today's NAS environments. In addition, most IT organizations are seeking ways to help them reduce operational and capital costs associated with managing an ever growing amount of data.

NAS or file virtualization switches address these challenges by allowing IT managers to pool storage resources and utilize intelligent storage management services, to optimize resource allocation and data management.

These innovative devices virtualize file systems from heterogeneous file servers and NAS devices, and introduce intelligent storage management policies to optimize resource utilization, performance and scalability. NAS virtualization switches break the physical static mapping between clients and their storage recourses, decoupling the logical location from the physical location of the data. This means that clients are no longer affected by changes to the storage devices they access. Common storage management tasks such as provisioning, consolidation, and migration can be performed online without requiring client reconfiguration.

These file virtualization switches use industry standard CIFS and NFS protocols to virtualize existing heterogeneous file systems. Instead of accessing file storage resources through inflexible device-centric mount points or drive mappings, clients simply access file storage resources through the unified Global Namespace presented by the switch.

These products are purpose-built to be in-band devices, providing unprecedented levels of scale as well as low latency and high speed switching operations. As a network device these NAS virtualization switches do not require software agents or the implementation of a proprietary file system. This allows organizations to realize the benefits of virtualization, without having to undergo a forklift upgrade to a new system. Furthermore, as network-based devices these products leverage the IP network to implement distributed data management policies that extend the virtualization layer across the enterprise.

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NAS virtualization products have several key applications and benefits to file storage environments:

* Simplifying storage management with online storage administration

* Transparent data migration and consolidation

* Increasing capacity utilization with flexible resource allocation

* Enabling tiered storage with adaptive ILM polices

* Scaling performance and throughput of existing file servers

* Enhancing data protection and disaster recovery

Simplifying Storage Management

As the amount of NAS storage under management has grown, enterprise IT groups have been continually challenged by the complexity of managing a large numbers of discrete file systems and by the on-going cycle of adds, moves and changes across these systems. This basic storage administration typically requires user downtime and manual client reconfigurations.

The NAS virtualization switches allow enterprises to dramatically simplify storage management by enabling online storage administration. The file virtualization technology separates the logical from the physical location of the data. This allows IT managers to perform online storage administration, without disrupting user access to data. As a result, storage provisioning, capacity balancing and decommissioning can be done online, during regular business hours. In addition, because the mount points are now virtual mount points, no application reconfiguration is required.

Transparent Data Migration

For most IT organizations, storage growth and the normal cycle of hardware and software upgrades create ongoing needs to move data and consolidate storage devices. However, data migration is typically a very painful process. Most migrations require manual intervention, cause application downtime, and often require cumbersome client reconfigurations.

NAS virtualization switches are able to move data without affecting user access. Administrators can use powerful policies in these devices for a range of data migration tasks such as moving data off legacy file servers to new NAS devices, balancing storage capacity, or performing software upgrades. Most importantly the data migration tasks can be automated and occur without any user downtime or client reconfigurations. The result is a rapid non-disruptive data migration that significantly reduces the pain and operational overhead associated with moving data.

Increasing Capacity Utilization

In many IT environments it is difficult to add storage capacity to existing file systems without user disruption. This often results in storage capacity being over-provisioned to meet demand. As a result, enterprises have low NAS utilization rates (30-50% average) and have no simple way of optimizing resource allocation.

NAS virtualization switches provide the ability to dynamically balance capacity utilization across back end file systems. This is done transparently to clients and applications. This allows storage managers to maximize storage utilization and eliminate stranded capacity. In addition, the switches enable IT mangers to do "thin provisioning" of storage, because additional capacity can be added without downtime or disruption to user access.

Tiered Storage

In an effort to reduce capital expenditure, many enterprises are seeking to move non-critical business data off of expensive storage resources to lower cost alternatives. Unfortunately, migrating data between systems and managing the data lifecycle over time is a complex process with high operational overhead.

The NAS virtualization switches address these challenges by automating the migration of data between different tiers of storage in a non-disruptive manner. The file switches can seamlessly migrate data based on age, type, and usage between storage tiers and manage this relationship over time. Administrators can use this capability to implement a tiered NAS environment by augmenting primary storage with new, lower cost alternatives, or even redeploying older series filers for less critical business data.

Scaling Performance and Throughput

A number of enterprises today experience performance issues associated with the entire workload of a critical business application accessing a single NAS device or file server. This often causes a bottleneck and slows down the business workflow.

NAS virtualization switches alleviate these bottlenecks by distributing application loads across multiple file systems or across multiple physical NAS devices. This can significantly increase the throughput of the application, because the I/O can be load-balanced across multiple physical devices or file systems. The file switch can monitor file server latency and can distribute I/O based on the "least loaded" file server. The virtualization switches also support load balancing based on capacity and weighted round robin metrics.

Data Protection and Disaster Recovery

Many IT organizations implementing disaster recovery solutions are forced to buy costly software licenses and use the same vendor for storage in both the primary and disaster recovery sites. Further, many enterprises experience significant downtime and delay when failing over from a primary site to a disaster recovery site, due to the required manual client reconfigurations.

NAS virtualization switches provide the capability to create disk-based replicas of file data to support data protection and disaster recovery. Administrators can define file sets to be asynchronously replicated either locally or remotely across an IP network of virtualization switches. Replication can occur at regularly scheduled intervals with full or only incremental copies (file changes) being transmitted. Off-site replicas can be presented and accessed by the user in a read-only fashion to ensure the availability of data. In addition, NAS virtualization switches provide intelligent operational failover functionality that allows customers to automate failover from a primary site to a disaster recovery site with minimal downtime and no client reconfiguration.

Conclusion

Enterprise IT organizations are faced with challenges associated with managing the massive growth in storage capacity and the need to reduce the costs of managing this ever-growing amount of data. NAS virtualization addresses these challenges by providing simplified management, improved utilization, increased scale and performance, and dynamic data lifecycle management in today's NAS infrastructure.

Brendan Howe is vice president of marketing and business development; Acopia Networks (Lowell, MA).

www.acopia.com
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Storage Networking; Network Attached Storage
Author:Howe, Brendon
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2006
Words:1245
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Next Article:NAS virtualization ready to double in 2006: NAS and NAS virtualization survey results.
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