Storage vendors ease resource management

Cisco Systems Inc., Network Appliance Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are among those expected this week to unveil new storage hardware and software that makes it easier to manage, secure and protect data resources on storage-area networks and network-attached storage.

Among the announcements expected at StorageDecisions 2004 in Chicago are:

– Cisco will announce a new version of its SAN operating system that not only supports IPSec data security but also expands the ability to compress and send data over distance for disaster-recovery purposes. The company also will introduce two storage modules for its MDS9000 switches that support Fibre Channel, iSCSI, Fibre Channel over IP and Gigabit Ethernet.

– Network Appliance is launching new software that helps users archive and retain data for regulatory compliance reasons and works with their existing file servers and NearStore appliance.

– Microsoft is expected to announce the Data Protection Server, a disk-based approach to backing up data, which lets users retrieve data themselves based on disk drives and file names rather than storage volumes or tape locations; the company will also announce a storage community, which helps users address their storage concerns.

– Overland Data will introduce a back-up and recovery appliance aimed at small-to-midsize companies.

These new features are critical for allowing users to manage and protect their storage resources more efficiently, analysts say.

“Across the board, you can point to large companies and identify changes in corporate governance rules and oversight concerns about the recovery of data from disaster,” says Rick Villars, vice-president of storage systems at IDC.

As soon as next month, Cisco will add a variety of features to its SAN operating system and its MDS 9000 family of multi-layer intelligent directors and fabric switches, including tape acceleration and data compression for Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP). The company also has added IPSec and Advanced Encryption Standard support to its storage switches to protect data in data centers and WAN environments.

Tape acceleration lets the MDS 9000 switch speed up the I/O transactions that occur during backups to remote locations. Hardware-assisted data compression over FCIP helps storage administrators achieve much higher data compression rates over WAN links.

The company is adding two modules to its MDS 9000 family of switches to support iSCSI, FCIP, Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet. The 9216i fabric switch and the Cisco MDS 9000 Multiprotocol Services Module each have 14 2G bit/sec Fibre Channel ports and two Gigabit Ethernet port, that can be programmed to support FCIP or iSCSI.

“Cisco is making it easier for customers to utilize iSCSI and FCIP to network additional departments or remote offices into the SAN, as well as facilitate disaster recovery,” says Stephanie Balaouras, senior analyst for The Yankee Group. With iSCSI, customers can connect storage devices to the Gigabit Ethernet network. With FCIP, they can replicate data across unlimited distances for business continuity and disaster-recovery purposes.

Neither switch module is priced by Cisco because its products are resold by Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., EMC Corp. and Hitachi Data Systems Corp., among others, and are being certified by these vendors. They are expected to be available in the fourth quarter.

Network Appliance is showcasing security and data protection with its LockVault software, which archives unstructured data — Acrobat PDF files, Word documents and Excel spreadsheets — and lets users recover it quickly.

Peter Gerr, senior analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group, says Network Appliance’s LockVault implementation makes a lot of sense for customers, particularly when contrasted with full-blown enterprise content management software.

Enterprise Strategy Group estimates that documents and files from personal productivity applications can represent up to 80 per cent of an organization’s data.

LockVault, which installs on the file server or NearStore appliance, assigns a retention date to the stored files so they can be deleted when necessary. A configuration of the software that spans 24T bytes costs US$62,000.

Microsoft is proposing a recovery method based on disk content that is consistent with how a user sees their files. When a user needs to recover a file, they typically look to the disk location rather than the tape location for recovering it. For instance, a network administrator would need to know the path to the volume where the data resides; the user would only need to designate the drive letter and the file name to recover data.

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