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NetApp Maps NAS Path

Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) knew that at some point, it was going to have to leave behind its Old Reliable the Data OnTap operating system that has powered its NAS systems for going on a decade.

The software, to be sure, has kept NetApp in the top tier of the NAS market. But it has a critical shortcoming: Its file system is unable to span multiple devices. That means individual files must be tied to specific physical NetApp filers, which seriously limits the overall system's scaleability and manageability.

Last week, NetApp took a huge step beyond the legacy of Data OnTap: The company picked up distributed NAS startup Spinnaker Networks Inc. for around $300 million in stock in one of the biggest deals in the storage networking industry this year (see NetApp Annexes Spinnaker).

This was by every measure a technology acquisition, indicative of NetApp's desire to pick up what CEO Dan Warmenhoven called a "world-class engineering team." In fact, to accommodate Spinnaker's Pittsburgh engineering crew, NetApp has decided to leave them exactly where they are. A cardinal rule in these kinds of deals: Don't break up the band!

While NetApp's legacy operating system software will still remain the heart and soul of the company, the Spinnaker technology will be its platform for a new breed of systems that can provide clustered file services for thousands of terabytes (see Spinnaker Shoves Off and Spinnaker's Cluster Burns Rubber).

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