NuView Expands Namespace

Global namespace pioneer breaks Windows-only mold

March 9, 2005

3 Min Read
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Global namespace player NuView Inc. has enhanced its file virtualization software in an effort to find new space in an increasingly crowded field.

NuView has added data management support for Linux and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) Solaris operating systems to its StorageX product. The company also has introduced security features to go with its previous support for Windows.

NuView can now migrate or replicate data from Linux to Solaris servers, and its products can replicate data to remote sites. NuView also has added the ability to assign group permissions to data through global namespaces.

Can NuView distance itself from a growing roster of competitors with these enhancements? To answer that question, let's start at the top. Global namespace lets users manage files stored across different NAS systems as one big pool. NuView shipped its first global namespace product when it introduced StorageX in 2001 (see SNW: Day Two) and caught the attention of Network Appliance Inc. and EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC (Nasdaq: NTAP).

NuView now claims more than 250 customers, largely due to an OEM deal with NetApp and a licensing agreement with EMC (see A NuView for NetApp and EMC?). NetApp and NuView co-develop the product that NetApp sells as Virtual File Manager (VFM), and EMC resells StorageX (see NetApp Ships NuView NAS App).Others followed NuView into global namespace, though with different kinds of products. Acopia Networks Inc., NeoPath Networks, and Rainfinity sell global namespace software that runs on hardware. Rainfinity joined the game in 2002, while the others started shipping within the last year. (See WTC Gets Lit, Rainfinity Upgrades NAS Migration Box, Acopia Ships Its Switch, Sun Vet Takes Shining to NeoPath, and NeoPath Opens Up.)

A lot of people use the term 'global namespace,' but basically it’s a virtual file system,” says The Clipper Group Inc. analyst Mike Fisch. “The different products implement them in different ways. Basically, you have to go beyond the name and look at how they’re doing it.”

That could be easier said than done. The major difference between NuView and the other startups is its out-of-band software implementation, which, as the term implies, sits on a host outside the data path. On the plus side, this requires no extra hardware to run and supposedly reduces latency. On the downside, out-of-band solutions call for software agents to reside on the various hosts in the global file system. And agents get Bronx cheers in many IT shops.

Acopia, NeoPath, and Rainfinity take in-band approaches (see Acopia Aces $25M). Acopia and NeoPath put a switch between a NAS filer and Ethernet networks, and Rainfinity sells its software on hardware from Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) and others. These vendors say their wares are easier to implement than out-of-band solutions. And all three support Unix, while NuView has been solely for Windows shops.

The in-band/out-of-band argument has become a confusing religious war in which claims are increasingly tough to qualify without actual testing (see Spaid Breaks Ground and EMC & IBM in Virtual Skirmish). For the record, NuView CEO Rahul Mehta says the out-of-band approach is superior because it reads the file once, while in-band applications have to view it twice. “A lot of people try to take two views of one file,” he says. “We have one view.”With its latest enhancements, NuView is addressing something that's more readily comprehensible, that is, its hitherto-limited Unix support. Many ITers interpret lack of Unix as reduced enterprise value.

This has been a bit of a hitch for NuView, which didn’t add namespace support for Unix in StorageX until the third version in 2003 (see NuView Fills Out). Now that it can actually manage data on Unix boxes, NuView's likely to offer more choices to customers -- and a bigger threat to its rivals.

The addition of security could sweeten the deal. “Everybody’s trying to integrate storage and security under one umbrella,” Mehta says. “We believe namespace is the right place to do that.”

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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