Storage vendors extend their reach

Interoperability and manageability of data storage will be the primary focus of products that Network Appliance Inc., Hitachi Data Systems Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and others introduce next week at Storage Networking World.

Among the announcements expected:

* Network Appliance will launch a version of its NearStore disk-based back-up appliance that can be used to interchangeably store data that must be archived and readily available to meet government regulations, or back up nonregulated archival data.

* Cisco will release modules for its 7200 Series routers, Fibre Channel director-level switches and IP storage router that let users extend the reach of storage-area networks (SAN) across a WAN.

* Hitachi and Network Appliance will announce a network-attached storage gateway – the first NAS for Hitachi – that lets network users access data contained on their SANs via a Network Appliance file server.

* CNT, which acquired director-level switch vendor Inrange Technologies this week for US$190 million, will roll out a version of its mainframe-based, director-level switch for Unix and Windows networks, letting users intermix SAN data from both environments.

* Microsoft Corp. and Nishan Systems Inc. will introduce a protocol service that lets management software running on Windows 2003 discover devices on a SAN or IP storage (iSCSI or Fibre Channel over IP) network.

Network Appliance’s NearStore array now will support retention of regulated data, such as that found in financial, healthcare, government and pharmaceutical businesses, in addition to the back-up data it traditionally has stored. NearStore incorporates SnapLock’s software that has write once read many times (WORM) capabilities, which will let it store e-mail, transaction records and medical images, which need to be retained unaltered and accessible for long periods of time.

“The Network Appliance announcement is very important for the marketplace because it is a major vendor providing a solution that helps companies that have regulated and nonregulated business better manage and develop life-cycle capabilities for specific data types,” says Tony Prigmore, a senior analyst with Enterprise Storage Group Inc. “In some regulated businesses, there is no question that what Network Appliance is doing will be viewed as an excellent, easy-to-manage addition to customers’ current Network Appliance infrastructures without adding incremental equipment.”

WORM drives and tapes have long been available for storing regulated data. But they are slow to access, less reliable and more expensive than storage arrays from Network Appliance, EMC Corp. or StorageTek, which use Advanced Technology Attachment drives, experts say.

Cisco will introduce a variety of products intended to link SAN islands and provide any-to-any device access to storage. The company will roll out the MDS 9000 IP Storage Services Module, a Fibre Channel over IP port (FCIP) adapter for the Cisco 7200 and 7400 Routers, a new version of the SN 5428 Storage Router coarse wavelength division multiplexing (CWDM) small-form-factor pluggable modules for its Storage Networking product.

The IP Storage Services Module is a dual-function FCIP and iSCSI blade for Cisco’s MDS 9000 Fibre Channel director, which lets SANs be linked across a WAN and servers on the network have access to SAN storage. The FCIP port adapter gives the Cisco 7200 and 7400 Routers the ability to link SANs over distance. FCIP capability also has been added to the SN 5428-2 Storage Router. CWDM SFPs can be added to the MDS 9509, which will let it attach to a CWDM multiplexer and use point-to-point Fibre Channel links to support data traffic.

Hitachi and Network Appliance will announce a gateway called the HDS NetApp Enterprise NAS Gateway that lets customers consolidate separate NAS, SAN and direct-attached storage devices into a common storage pool that can be managed from Hitachi’s HiCommand interface. “Customers are tired of uncooperative vendors, and anytime they see two vendors behaving in a cooperative way it gives them comfort about overall storage,” Prigmore says.

The Enterprise NAS Gateway consists of a Network Appliance FAS900 filer attached to a Hitachi Freedom Storage Lightning 9900a or 9500 V Series array directly or via a Fibre Channel switch. It comes in three models – the GF940, GF960 and the GF825 – which make as much as 48 terabytes of data available. The GF940 and 960 are available now; the GF825 is expected to be available in June.

Network Appliance and Bus-Tech will launch a software and hardware bundle that lets Bustech’s Mainframe Appliance for Storage back up mainframe data on the NearStore appliance rather than on legacy IBM tape drives or storage arrays from EMC, HP, IBM or Hitachi.

CNT will launch an enhanced version of its UltraNet Storage Director that adds Fibre Channel, Gigabit Ethernet and OC-12 ATM/Packet-over-SONET capability to the switches’ Enterprise Systems Connection capability. This will let users mirror, replicate or copy data from any storage array attached to a Windows, Linux or Unix server to any other array located across a geographic distance.

Microsoft and Nishan also are announcing that the Internet Storage Name Service (iSNS) will be incorporated into Windows 2003. The iSNS management protocol is an IETF proposed standard for discovering devices in SANs and IP storage networks, where devices might prove impossible to discover via standard polling methods because there could be as many as 15.5 million addresses to manage. Cisco, IBM, Nishan, Nortel Networks Corp. and others support iSNS.