Network Appliance unfolds unified storage platform line

Network Appliance Inc. has introduced the FAS900 series unified storage platform line. Essentially, Network Appliance is trying, at least from a marketing standpoint, to create a new class of storage product an FAS (fabric-attached storage) device that can support both NAS (network-attached storage) and SAN (storage area network) data storage.

SAN support is a radical change for Network Appliance. Before this announcement, Network Appliance didn’t just specialize in NAS, it scorned SANs. “For five years, I’ve been the guy on the stage telling you SANs suck,” said David Hitz, a Network Appliance founder and executive vice-president of engineering, during the announcement.

The idea behind the new product line is that life science managers can attach high-end storage devices (like the FAS) using whatever fabric they want. In other words, if the existing network is TCP/IP, a Fibre Channel network does not need to be added to support the device, and vice versa. This is in contrast to existing products that dictate the network choice based on storage technology (e.g., TCP/IP for NAS, Fibre Channel for SANs).

An added benefit of using a single device to support both NAS and SAN data is simplified management. Typically, NAS devices store files, while SANs store blocks of data. With FAS, “files and blocks will share a common pool of disk drives, and managers will have a unified management view of both types of data,” says Nick Allen, a vice president and research director at Gartner Group.

This single-view and single-device approach to support mixed NAS and SAN scenarios will likely appeal to life science companies currently supporting both.

The first two products in the FAS900 line are the FAS940 and FAS960. The FAS940 has a maximum capacity of 9 terabytes; the FAS960 file server has a maximum data storage capacity of 16TB. As storage demands increase, multiple devices can be added to a network for additional capacity.