Adding NAS For A Competitive Edge

Network Attached Storage's new slimmed down operating system solves the problem of networks' ever-increasing storage needs.

July 8, 2004

2 Min Read
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When it comes to networking, storage is king.

System builders have met the challenges set forth by today's businesses by increasing storage in both white-box PCs and white-box servers -- only to find out that a customer's business can quickly outgrow a unit's internal storage capacity.

Enter Network Attached Storage, or NAS. It solves the problem of networks' ever-increasing storage needs. NAS technology connects a hard drive -- or series of hard drives -- to a network's backbone via straightforward components and a slimmed-down operating system.

System builders have been at a loss when it comes to NAS. Most NAS sales have gone to larger players like Snap Appliance, Maxtor, and other major vendors. But their solutions tend to have high per-gigabyte costs. They also offer enterprise-level features that for many white-box implementations are overkill.

But now, thanks to suppliers like American Megatrends Inc. (AMI) and reByte Inc., system builders can jump on the NAS bandwagon and offer inexpensive alternatives to the big players.AMI and reByte offer system builders both the tools to build a NAS unit and the flexibility to work with nearly any PC-based architecture. With the help of those vendors, system builders will find entering the NAS market quite easy. What's more, there is a hidden benefit to selling NAS: System builders can use the technology to move older components, such as previous-generation motherboards, processors, and hard drives. NAS involves low processing requirements to provide gigabytes of storage to a small network. In other words, NAS lets you recycle older PCs and servers into storage devices.

Here are five rules for system builders who want to build NAS systems successfully:

  • Keep it simple: Avoid exotic hardware. NAS solutions do just fine with basic processors and motherboards.

  • Offer Lots of Storage: More is better. Go with IDE drives to control costs.

  • Offer More Memory: While RAM requirements for a NAS solution tend to be light, increasing memory size can improve performance.

  • Network Fast: Use 100BaseT Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) as a starting point. Sites looking for additional speed may want to jump to gigabit Ethernet.

  • Right-Size the System Case: Larger cases offer room for more drives and upgrade opportunities. Smaller cases can be tucked away more easily. Your choice.

This Recipe concentrates on building a NAS unit using simple, off-the-shelf components. These offer low-cost storage for a small business. NAS can be used for several storage-related functions, including live storage, archival storage, and online backup. System builders should take the intended use into account when building a unit. For example, while live storage tends to require more speed, backup can forgo speed enhancements, but may need an increase in capacity.

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