IBM Speeds Up NAS Gateway

IBM scaled up its network attached storage (NAS) gateway line Tuesday in response to customer demands and a continued convergence of NAS and storage area network (SAN) environments.

January 28, 2004

3 Min Read
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IBM scaled up its network attached storage (NAS) gateway line Tuesday in response to customer demands and a continued convergence of NAS and storage area network (SAN) environments.

The newest product in IBM's NAS gateway portfolio, the IBM TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500, is based on Big Blue's own Power4 processors running the AIX operating system, a major upgrade from IBM's previous top-of-the-line NAS Gateway 300, which relies on Intel processors and Microsoft Windows.

NAS gateways such as the 500 let enterprises link servers and clients with multiple storage devices and SANs (storage area networks) through a single platform. IBM's pitch is that by reducing the number of storage 'islands,' -- separate clusters of data, often spread geographically -- enterprises can better take advantage of existing storage resources while lowering support costs.

The key to the NAS Gateway 500 is its speed improvements, which deliver data from NAS clusters and SANs faster than IBM's previous gateways; faster, too, claimed product marketing manager David Vaughn, than its competitors.

"The speed improvements of the NAS 500 don't come exclusively from the hardware," said Vaughn, "but from a combination of the Power architecture and the software based on AIX, the same technology used in our enterprise storage products."According to Vaughn, the NAS Gateway 500 boasts dramatic performance increases. In a Unix or Linux environment using NFS (Network File System), the new gateway works six times faster than the 300, he said, while companies using Windows' CFIS (Common Internet File System) will see a 50 percent increase.

"That's a dramatic improvement," Vaughn said, who went on to claim that third-party benchmarks show a 30 percent speed advantage over similar gateways from EMC and Network Appliance.

The new gateway also ups the storage capacity ante, for it can tie together more than ten times the storage -- 224 terabytes total -- than the Gateway 300, which maxed out at 22 terabytes.

IBM's gateway includes several reliability and availability features, including failover when a memory chip or processor in the device goes south. "If one processor goes out, it's 'moved aside' and the others keep working as if nothing happened," said Vaughn.

Additionally, an optional feature inserts a server processor into the gateway, which then monitors the health and performance of the device and reports status to IBM's technicians. At the first sign of a problem, IBM contacts the customers. "We're taking the autonomic computing idea to the gateway," said Vaughn, "to deal with failures before they happen."Although the NAS Gateway 500 is designed to provide file serving capabilities for IBM eServer systems, IBM TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server, and IBM TotalStorage FAStT products, agents shipped with the gateway also allow customers equipped with IBM TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller to connect non-IBM storage hardware.

Currently, these agents support three models of Hewlett-Packard's storage gear, and one from Hitachi. Others, said Vaughn, will be forthcoming.

The gateway can be managed using IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, Tivoli Storage Resource Manager, and Tivoli SAN Manager, and supports Unix, Linux, and Windows clients.

"Customers have told us they want an enterprise class gateway," said Vaughn in explaining IBM's shift to the higher end. But that's not the only reason. NAS and SAN, he said, have been on a path of convergence for some time.

"Enterprises don't want two different storage infrastructures," he said. "The first step toward [convergence] was the NAS gateway of three years ago. The next step? Integration with storage software technology to mix heterogeneous storage behind the gateway."A high-speed gateway such as the 500 gives companies the flexibility they require as their storage infrastructure evolves, Vaughn added. "Companies can't predict where they'll be [in storage] in two or three years."

The TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500 is set to ship from IBM and its partners Feb. 6, with prices starting at $60,000.

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