Acopia Talks Snapshots

Claims first to snapshot across multivendor arrays. But no product yet, and Attune's contesting UPDATED 5:40 PM

February 7, 2007

3 Min Read
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Acopia Networks says it's able to take file snapshots from a virtualized volume spanning EMC and NetApp NAS arrays. (See Acopia Snaps Across EMC NAS.)

But don't reach for the phone just yet.

"We plan a product in the future. We do have customers using this in a beta-like mode," says Kirby Wadsworth, SVP of marketing and business development at Acopia. But for now, he admits the feat he's describing is just a "shot across the bow."

Acopia's in-band ARX switch, positioned between servers and NAS systems, creates a global namespace for multivendor NAS boxes. (See Acopia Files Away $20M.) Now, Wadsworth and Acopia senior consulting engineer Harald Skardal say their team has written software for the switch that creates proxy snapshots of a federated file volume based on underlying EMC and NetApp arrays. The snapshotting is based on the same proxying techniques by which the switch creates a global namespace for NFS and CIFS files.

Acopia deployed APIs from EMC and NetApp to create the snapshot function. Results of the test, which was conducted in Acopia's lab using two shares on a NetApp FAS3050 filer and two shares on an EMC NS 700 filer (with both CIFS and NFS clients) are available on request, the vendor says.In lieu of any firsthand testimonial from the customers that Acopia claims are using the new software, the vendor obtained "verification" of the test from Jon Toigo, managing partner of the Toigo Partners International consultancy. "They've kind of done for files what DataCore does for block storage," Toigo says. "There's no magic."

Toigo, who says he has not been hired in any way by Acopia, says the snapshotting appears to be an industry first, though the problem of backup for virtualized NAS heads has been examined by other players.

Indeed, the problems of managing NAS are in the forefront of user issues, sparking a surge of market activity, including startup funding. And one of these startups, Attune Systems, claims to have this exact capability in a product right now. (See Attune Racks Up $14M.)

"This is a full piece of our existing product," says Dan Liddle, VP of marketing for Attune. Since June 2006, he asserts, Attune has offered snapshotting for CIFS and NFS files spanning underlying NetApp NAS and Windows-based filers. Attune has no support yet, however, for EMC filers.

While Acopia is making no immediate claims for selling this technology, Toigo thinks the proof of concept shows a promising effort toward "deconstructing arrays" and making NAS software more functional and less tied to specific vendors' products."Disk drive prices are dropping by about 50 percent a year," he notes, "but array prices have been increasing by 125 percent." Vendors are making up for array commoditization by adding extra software features to promote lock-in and maintain their margins.

It remains to be seen, though, whether Acopia can extend its lab junket into an actual product -- and whether the array vendors will cooperate enough to make it truly heterogeneous.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Acopia Networks Inc.

  • Attune Systems Inc.

  • DataCore Software Corp.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Toigo Partners International

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