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Standing out from the pack: integrators discover storage network appliances deliver scalability, management and application acceleration gains for customers.

Companies today strive to make a difference. You can see it in all facets of life, with companies touting the fastest, the biggest, or the newest product on the street. Integrators are faced with a daunting challenge--how to determine which factors truly make a difference with their customers, which technologies are mature enough on which to rest their firm's reputation, and what products will differentiate them from their competitors.

In uncertain times, the answers to these three questions will be some of the most critical decisions that integrators must make today. Certainly, there are many technologies that will serve to build robust data center environments, but which approach excels in customer environments and differentiates an integrator from others bidding on the same contract? To see one answer, let's look at how integrator Patuxent Technology Partners (PTP), is using storage networking appliances to both differentiate and stand ahead of others in the channel.

The reason why PTP chooses storage networking appliances to build a SAN? Superior application acceleration with simple deployment and easy management. The ability to use a storage networking appliance over first generation SAN infrastructures provides a powerful tool in their portfolio, and the appliances differentiate the company from other government integrators.

Storage networking appliances deliver substantial scalability, management, and application acceleration gains for customers with storage networking needs. Ken Bacci, president of Patuxent Technology Partners, recently said that in an era where storage networks are complex and difficult to deploy, optimize, and manage, "storage networking appliances make storage networks simple to deploy and easy to manage while maintaining application acceleration."

Storage network appliances can create a highly scalable, simple-to-deploy, and easy-to-manage SAN to accelerate application performance, simplify information management, and establish an intelligent platform for deploying application-specific storage solutions. Integrators like PTP are choosing storage networking appliances for their clients as a dependable, simple, and easy open-systems solution that delivers a high value-add for customer and integrator.

There are storage network appliances today that allow businesses to accelerate their applications, providing data at least three times faster than existing Storage Area Networking solutions and ten times faster than Network Attached Storage (NAS) technology, according to vendors. The acceleration of data to applications and users--simply and easily--allows customers to consolidate their storage. In fact, one appliance being deployed by integrators in an open-systems environment brings management of up to 100 Terabytes by a single system administrator to customers, providing 10x lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Evolution brings ease of Integration

Just as the evolution of the computer networking market necessitated purpose-built routers and switches, the evolution of the storage networking market is necessitating a new integrated platform in order to meet performance, high availability, scalability, and ease of management requirements. Now, we have an answer in a storage network appliance that brings a plug-and-play infrastructure device to accelerate application performance and simplify information management. The appliance can integrate seamlessly with legacy storage devices while providing a path to cost-effective scaleable storage capacity and virtualized storage pools.

Although the term appliance sometimes connotes a small kitchen-like device (and in some cases the appliance could be the size of a microwave oven), in the storage network environment this platform provides simplicity with intelligence serving the range of storage form factors from departmental and enterprise data center to carrier-class environments, and there are many benefits that appliances bring to data centers. The ease of use capability means appliances can be scaled to accommodate higher throughput and storage capacity by simply clustering multiple units. The appliance platform is extensible beyond local storage networks and can play an enabling role in metropolitan and wide area network applications as well.

Because of the pervasiveness of fully integrated or "true" appliances in the network space, customers like to use appliances because they offer higher performance and are simpler to use and manage than general-purpose devices. These devices have proven themselves in reducing TCO and ensure maximum uptime with a less complex, more efficient architecture.

The major advances in storage networking appliances in order to fulfill this role are threefold.

First, "true" appliance architectures have been developed that are robust and scalable ensuring that customers can safely and easily store, move and manage their data. Secondly, fully integrated appliances are open-systems and committed to deploying best-of-breed technology to deliver the best customer value in a solution. Historically, special purpose network devices have accelerated and simplified deployment of leading-edge networking technologies and topologies offering the best price/performance, reducing TCO, and ensuring maximum uptime with this less complex more efficient architecture. Thirdly, appliances enable partnering with major suppliers of networking, compute, management, and application technologies to optimize the benefit to the customer, bringing more interoperability, standardization, and applications specifically designed to use appliance strengths.

Integrators Benefit from Scalability, Management, Pre-Configuration

An example of a storage network appliance is DataDirect Network's Silicon Storage Appliance. The Silicon Storage Appliance (S2A) installation is easy, using plug-and-play simplicity to create a storage networking solution that delivers substantial TCO benefits for their customers. The device also brings several benefits for integrators that allow easy installation, management, and scalability.

With this appliance, integrators have the ability to pre-configure and analyze the storage network prior to deployment by using onboard management tools embedded at the ASIC level in the Silicon Storage Appliance. Additional analysis of the entire network can also be done on-site with the embedded management tools, and any optimization needed can be accomplished quickly and easily.

Storage network appliances come in a range of sizes and capabilities to handle the needs of a small workgroup to an enterprise to a carrier-class deployment. Some storage networking appliances have the ability to scale and supply an aggregate bandwidth of 800 megabytes per second and support up to 512 servers and 180 Terabytes of storage. These benefits also allow integrators the flexibility to create an open systems environment that can scale with customer needs in a simple and evolutionary way.

Silicon Storage Appliances have a unique scalability feature that provides incrementally higher levels of performance, capacity, caching, and connectivity on an as-needed, pay-as-you-go basis. The "Pay as you Grow" software needed to cope with future workloads is installed in each appliance today, with the user paying for only that portion of the configuration actually placed into service. This unique feature enables a cost-effective growth path to the largest storage networking appliance configurations and allows integrators an additional value-add to revisit customers as their needs grow.

Enabling SAN through Simplicity and Performance

As a new class of storage infrastructure device, the storage network appliance can bring capabilities to customers that are simply not available in any other storage architecture. These capabilities result in a better cost-of-ownership, a more easily managed, less complicated, higher-performing, and more robust storage network. The storage network appliance is equally adept at solving problems of storage consolidation, storage management, file-sharing, accelerated backup and restore, highly available fault tolerant solutions, and increased application productivity.

The architectural simplicity and performance capabilities of appliances can provide unmatched benefits not possible in any competing amalgamation of discrete storage devices. This simplicity and performance enhances a switched fabric by reducing performance impediments due to switching latency and contention, while mitigating hard costs incurred by cascaded fabrics. As many integrators and IT professionals are learning today, the storage network appliance is the answer to the hard problems associated with building a bulletproof, cost-effective, scalable storage network.

Robert Woolery is vice president of corporate development at DataDirect Networks (Chatsworth, CA).
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Author:Woolery, Robert
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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