Users Wary of FSV

IT managers cite bugs, complexity, and an overall lack of maturity

March 8, 2006

3 Min Read
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The market for file storage virtualization (FSV) is heating up, with Brocade stumping $60 million for startup NuView yesterday and a slew of vendors jostling for position. (See Brocade Acquires NuView.) But despite the promised benefits, many users have misgivings about the emerging technology.

FSV is being touted as an effective way for users to share file-level data around their storage infrastructures. A number of vendors, including Acopia Networks Inc., EMC, Cloverleaf Communications Inc., Network Appliance, and NeoPath Networks, are currently looking to buttress their position in this space. (See EMC to Buy Rainfinity, NetApp, Acopia Partner, NeoPath Intros File Director, and NuView Gets Personal.)

All this activity is to the good, says Christopher Bell, a member of the California Central Valley Storage Networking User Group and sales manager at Santa Clara, Calif.-based data center consultancy Helio Solutions. He claims users are crying out for FSV technologies. "I am seeing a lot of people concerned with the explosion of data. This is fulfilling a customer need."

In particular, says Bell, users need FSV to overcome dwindling data center headcounts, enabling a limited number of IT professionals to better control their existing storage hardware.

But Brocade user Rick Golish, vice president of finance at Minnesota Elevator, a Mankato, Minn.-based manufacturing firm, has not been won over by the FSV offerings currently on the market. "There's a whole lot of programming underneath it that has a whole lot of bugs in it," he explains. "We want someone else to be on the bleeding edge."Lack of maturity has already been highlighted as a major stumbling block for FSV, with IT managers expressing a desire to see the technology develop, particularly where NAS "pooling" is concerned. A recent Byte and Switch Insider report, for example, notes that most FSV gear has yet to break the bonds of back-end operating systems, which means that storage is "aggregated," rather than truly "pooled." (See Insider: Users Cite Virtual Savings.)

"I would agree with that," says Leon Verriere, systems engineer of Calhoun, Georgia-based Mohawk Industries, which uses NuView's StorageX product to manage its Windows file system. "There will be a huge advantage to the industry when we get there."

Nonetheless, Verriere has managed to overcome pooling constraints by using StorageX in conjunction with VMWare virtualization software.

The exec adds that his own FSV deployment was pain-free, although he warns that other users will have to pick their own way through the technology. "There's a lot of niche players that do a lot of things," he explains. "[Users] need to find the best virtualization piece for their environment."

Doing that could be easier said than done. "We have looked at [FSV] conceptually and the idea is appealing," admits Jackson Shea, co-founder of the Portland Storage Networking User Group and an Oregon-based IT manager. "But the complexity of deploying a global file system is a little daunting at this point -- it's the idea of introducing yet another new technology at a time when we are having resource constraints."Meanwhile, Brocade now plans to place NuView's products into its Tapestry family of software, which it launched last year with a Wide Area File Services (WAFS) package and an Application Resource Manager (ARM) to provision blade servers. (See Brocade Busts an IT Move.)

Brocade execs consider NuView's software a good fit for the WAFS products that Brocade sells through an OEM deal with Tacit, because both technologies manage files, and the software is based on Windows code.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Acopia Networks Inc.

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cloverleaf Communications Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • NeoPath Networks

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • NuView Inc.

  • Tacit Networks Inc.

  • VMware Inc.

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