New NAS on the block

It’s no secret: storage is exploding. SAN and NAS are more than just added ingredients into IT’s alphabet soup; they’ve become the main course.

Jumping on the opportunities within Canada’s storage industry, Sunnydale, Calif.-based Network Appliance Inc. has officially opened shop north of the 49 th, despite the fact that it has been selling its storage solutions in Canada since 1996. With recent office openings in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, Network Appliance is preparing to focus more closely on the Canadian market by dispersing geographically and intends to become an industry leader in a country that has a lot to store, the company claimed.

According to Canadian general manager Jeff Goldstein, Network Appliance focuses on global open storage networking and virtualization across the LAN and WAN using Center-to-Edge solutions reliant upon industry standards. Goldstein insists that its competitors focus on data centre storage networking using a variety of proprietary storage approaches, an issue that has been solved years ago by Network Appliance.

Bob Passmore, Gartner’s research director for storage in Boston, believes that the company will excel in Canada as it has in other locations around the world because of the simplicity and effectiveness of their NAS products.

“In the NAS space, Network Appliance has done an outstanding job,” Passmore said. “They have an easy-to-install and manage product. You put it in and it takes less than ten minutes, typically, to configure it to do certain things.

“One of the most common things that happens in a large organization is that people mess up their files. They delete the wrong file or they screw it up for one reason or another and want it restored,” Passmore continued. “With a NetApp product, they implement snapshots, so the product, on a very frequent basis, makes what appears to be a copy of all the files at that point in time. It’s actually not making a copy, but putting a pointer – what we call meta data – in place that allows them to know what the file looked like at that point in time. As additional modifications happen, they keep those changes in a different place. With a NetApp product, when a user needs that file back, they mount the snapshot and drag and drop the file across, and they’re back in business.”

This, Passmore insists, is a beneficial feature for any company’s IT department.

“In a normal operation, an IT department gets all of these calls from users wanting their files restored, and the IT department is grumbling and issuing tape commands to get the file back,” Passmore said. “Suddenly the IT department is no longer doing any restores. They’re still doing backup to tape in the event of a disaster, but 98 or 99 per cent of their work is gone away because of the elegance of this product.”

Brian Tao, manager of server operations at AT&T Canada and one of Network Appliance’s oldest Canadian customers, explained the reasons why his company chose their NAS solution from NetApp.

“Our decision was made in the spring of 1997 when the NAS market was not yet very crowded or competitive,” Toronto-based Tao said. “Network Appliance had a novel concept at the time, and seemed to be the only company taking that approach for storage. We solicited feedback from existing NetApp customers in the Toronto area (I think there were only four or five at the time) and based on their testimonials, we decided to purchase our first F220 filer. We are now entering our fifth year as a NetApp customer, and we’ve grown to 20 F740 filers (all clustered) and a pair of clustered F840s for disaster recovery.”

Mark Santora, senior vice-president of marketing for Network Appliance in Sunnyvale, Calif., is not worried about being a fairly new player in the Canadian market, nor is he concerned about the seemingly huge rise of SANs.

“I know this sounds a little bit strange, but I hope [the SAN industry] do succeed, because at the end of the day I’m not worried about those guys,” Santora said. “I’m worried about the speed at which we do this movement from direct attach to some sort of network centre. The more that (NAS) can become quicker and the more accepted way of doing things, the bigger my market is. And if some of the market goes to SAN, more power to them. The real losers are the server-attached guys. They’re going to get mowed down on this thing.”