The NAS That Don't Get No Respect

It has most of the features and capabilities that the competition offers, and at a lower price. So why do so many people look down their noses at it?

Howard Marks

February 13, 2009

2 Min Read
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11:15 AM -- What would you say to a NAS/unified storage OS that, in addition to providing CIFS, NFS, and iSCSI services, provided full text indexing of file content, directory based quotas, and file type screens to prevent users from uploading their MP3 collections, a global name space so multiple devices can act as one and basic SRM reporting? If that's not enough it has sexy data reduction technologies including file system compression and "file-level de-duplication," or single-instance storage.

When it comes to reliability, it can run in single-controller configurations or clusters of up to eight nodes. It is supported by every major backup application, including CDP, and includes copy on write snapshots with end user access to previous versions and deleted files so you don't have to deal with user requests for single file restores. Finally, it's OEMed by vendors from Dell, HP, and IBM to Akbar and Jeff's Computer Hut in appliance and gateway configurations from 1 to 100s of TB.

Despite all these features, our NAS OS is treated like Rodney Dangerfield by enterprise admins who would rather spend several times as much to put bottom-of-the-line FAS or Celerra with 2 TB of disk in the Rancho Cucamonga branch office.

If you havent guessed yet, our mystery OS is Microsoft's Windows Storage Server (WSS) -- the version of Windows Server 2003 R2 that OEMs can use to build NAS solutions. The iSCSI target, which Microsoft acquired from Stringbean Software a couple of years ago, and single-instance storage are unique to WSS as are the command line and Web management console. WSS also differs from Windows server in licensing as Client Access Licenses aren't required to access a WSS server, which really doesn't end up mattering for most organizations as they're required for domain controller access anyway.

OK, so the NFS is pretty slow, you need to add third-party replication, and VSS snapshots are pretty much limited to backups and previous version restores. Even so, WSS, or just Windows server configured as a file server, is a perfectly good place for 100 or 1,000 users to stick their home directories on.Why, other than that bad taste from Windows NT that still hasn't gone away, don't it get no respect?

— Howard Marks is chief scientist at Networks Are Our Lives Inc., a Hoboken, N.J.-based consultancy where he's been beating storage network systems into submission and writing about it in computer magazines since 1987. He currently writes for InformationWeek, which is published by the same company as Byte and Switch.

About the Author(s)

Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Howard Marks</strong>&nbsp;is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage systems, networks, management systems and Internet strategies at organizations including American Express, J.P. Morgan, Borden Foods, U.S. Tobacco, BBDO Worldwide, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the State University of New York at Purchase. The testing at DeepStorage Labs is informed by that real world experience.</p><p>He has been a frequent contributor to <em>Network Computing</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>InformationWeek</em>&nbsp;since 1999 and a speaker at industry conferences including Comnet, PC Expo, Interop and Microsoft's TechEd since 1990. He is the author of&nbsp;<em>Networking Windows</em>&nbsp;and co-author of&nbsp;<em>Windows NT Unleashed</em>&nbsp;(Sams).</p><p>He is co-host, with Ray Lucchesi of the monthly Greybeards on Storage podcast where the voices of experience discuss the latest issues in the storage world with industry leaders.&nbsp; You can find the podcast at:

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