Network Appliance Offerings Aim To Simplify Storage Management

Servers and software are designed to let customers use network-attached storage and SANs in the same environment.
While IT budgets are expected to remain flat or increase only slightly in the coming year, the demands for data storage won't adhere to such a conservative growth curve. Expecting that storage costs will represent a growing portion of stagnant IT budgets in 2003, Network Appliance Inc. on Tuesday introduced a new line of storage servers and software designed to simplify storage management and help companies use both network-attached storage devices and storage area networks in the same IT environment.

Network Appliance's objective is to move more storage off large disk arrays and onto its smaller, more-flexible network-attached servers. The FAS900 storage servers introduced Tuesday can be used not only as network-attached storage devices but also as part of a storage area network. Each FAS900 server--priced between $150,000 and $1 million, depending upon capacity and software--runs Network Appliance's Data OnTap 6.3 operating system and supports Fibre Channel-connected SANs. Along with the FAS900, Network Appliance also introduced NetApp SyncMirror data-replication software, the NetApp F825 entry-level filer for small and midsize businesses, and a 7-terabyte version of its NearStore R100 storage server.

Espousing the philosophy that the only way to achieve storage simplicity is through easy-to-use management applications, Network Appliance has opened up its Data OnTap storage operating system so it can be integrated more tightly with management applications from BMC Software, Computer Associates, and others. Network Appliance will provide these companies with its Manage OnTap API early next year so they can more easily write applications for Network Appliance's storage servers. In addition to integrating third-party software, Network Appliance has released the latest version of DataFabric Manager, 2.1, which lets companies centrally manage data stored in SAN or network-attached systems. DataFabric Manager 2.1 acts as a control panel for all Network Appliance products, managing NetApp NAS devices, NetCache appliances, and NearStore servers.

During the past few years, the storage market has for the most part positioned SANs and network-attached storage servers as mutually exclusive alternatives to companies' growing storage needs. Vendors such as Network Appliance have identified the need for an IT environment that accommodates both SANs and networked-attached storage, says William Lewis, a senior J.P. Morgan research analyst. Other storage trends that storage vendors will look to address in the coming year are providing lower-cost storage networking technology for small and midsize businesses and open-source management applications for consolidating management of different IT platforms.

Network Appliance's new products and services follow storage announcements from a number of competitors in the past few months. In August, Cisco Systems signed an agreement to buy Andiamo Systems, a developer of intelligent storage switching products for SANs. The acquisition marked Cisco's entry into a Fibre Channel SAN switching market that market-research firm Gartner expects will grow from about $1.2 billion this year to $4.3 billion in 2006.

Smaller storage technology companies have staked their claims as well. BlueArc Corp. on Monday introduced hardware-based storage management to compete with network-attached appliances that rely on software running on Intel-based servers. Last week, Rainfinity began shipping its RainStorage NAS storage switch, designed to facilitate file movement for backup and recovery. And startup Zambeel Inc. this summer launched its Aztera line of modular NAS systems, an attempt to introduce increasingly popular blade-server technology into the storage market.