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DAFS Debuts

The DAFS Collaborative is not a political group. Nor is it a hip-hop trio of cloned comic-strip ducks. Rather, it's a group of storage vendors pushing a new storage networking protocol. But the DAFS Collaborative is doing a song and dance of sorts, showing off the first implementation of DAFS at a developers conference in Orlando, this week.

DAFS stands for Direct Access File System and is a new standards-based next-generation file access protocol designed to resolve latency issues associated with NAS (network attached storage) systems. It's also designed to smooth over interoperability concerns with NAS, caused by variations in file system structure among different operating systems.

Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), a leading NAS vendor, and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)
are the two major players behind the DAFS Collaborative and have the most to gain from its success.

For NAS players, it’s a life or death move,” says William Hurley, storage analyst at the The Yankee Group. “NAS simply does not allow users to extract and view data as well as block-based storage.” Block-based protocols, such as Fibre Channel, transfer data in blocks, irrespective of the boundaries of individual data files, resulting in faster network transfers. In contrast, file-oriented protocols generally require more time to locate, and deal with, the boundaries of individual files.

“In an ever more competitive space, NAS vendors must find a way to expand the pie," Hurley adds. "DAFS offers them the chance to differentiate and, maybe, take points in market share from block-based platforms.”