Our advice: Managed data storage is essential to any business. As companies globalize their workforce, while at the same time consolidating data-center functions, users need to access business data that could be located anywhere in the world. Users just want critical information delivered quickly and transparently, whenever and wherever they are connected. In response to this need, data-storage vendors are developing wide-area file services (WAFS) that are optimized for delivering data in a wide-area network environment. The advantages of WAFS are truly self-healing data systems, more flexible data resource allocation, and improved options for business continuity.
Historically, most file systems were designed to work optimally with local disks, so they often are annoyingly slow in the networked environment in which most people now work. In response, several vendors are developing protocols and products to replace the aging Unix Network File System (NFS) and Microsoft Common Internet File System (CIFS). Both NFS and CIFS were originally developed for local-area network environments, so they have serious security and performance issues when used in a WAN setting.
The need for faster and more reliable delivery of data files in WAN environments will be driving the development of new standards over the next few years. In the meantime, for companies that need a WAN-based storage solution, several major vendors offer proprietary products which can provide access to cost-effective, managed, and protected central storage from branch offices.
Peter Schay, TAC executive VP and chief operating officer, has 30 years of experience as a senior IT executive in IT vendor and research industries. He most recently was VP and chief technology officer of SiteShell Corp. Previously at Gartner, he was group VP of global research infrastructure and support, and launched coverage of client-server computing in the early 1990s.
Beth Cohen, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years of experience building strong IT-delivery organizations from user and vendor perspectives. Having worked as a technologist for BBN, the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it's heading in the future.