As companies are faced with increasing financial pressures, flat budgets and no additional personnel to address an ever-increasing list of company-critical initiatives, demand is growing for storage options that are lower cost, easier to implement and simpler to manage.
As a result, when companies are looking for ways to better leverage existing storage investments, more and more are turning to network attached storage (NAS) gateways rather than to traditional NAS appliances to achieve their goals.
Historically, companies used NAS to quickly and easily deploy economical, file-based storage in distributed environments. NAS appliances were a perfect fit in those environments because they come pre-configured with the NAS head (or file server) and storage for easy integration and management within any existing IP network infrastructure.
Today, NAS appliances continue to be an excellent solution for companies that need fully-integrated file storage packaged for specific applications, departments or locations. Although features vary by vendor, integrated NAS devices are much more robust than their counterparts of just a few years ago. They offer high-end features such as built-in availability, support for multiple file servers in a single unit, and the ability to upgrade online and non-disruptively for higher performance or availability.
What has changed is now, NAS is not only a critical requirement in distributed environments, it is also a critical requirement in larger enterprise data centres where managers are looking to consolidate file-based storage for their users. That said, NAS requirements are different in these enterprise data centres. Data centres have already made significant investments in storage area network (SAN) storage and infrastructure management tools. In these environments, NAS appliances are not as cost effective when compared with NAS gateways -- which are highly optimised file servers that connect to a SAN to access storage.
In addition, NAS gateways offer increased flexibility by delivering greater performance, increased scalability and the ability to mix and match multiple tiers of storage (Fibre Channel and ATA) as well as different classes of storage arrays. Additionally, because NAS gateways separate the NAS head from the storage, they help lower administrative costs, avoid unnecessary hardware purchases and offer high-end NAS services at the price of most mid-tier appliances.
Benefits of NAS gateways include:
Because storage requirements can evolve dramatically over time, it is critical that NAS systems offer the greatest possible flexibility and leverage the other elements of the storage infrastructure.
Integrated NAS devices should enable companies to flexibly mix and match different types of storage and non-disruptively add file servers for higher performance and availability, as well as be upgraded to a gateway.
NAS gateways can support a wide variety of SAN connectivity devices, as well as mix and match multiple tiers and classes of storage, and leverage existing management toolsets for SAN data. By optimising storage assets, companies can achieve tremendous cost savings and drive the maximum value from information.
Clive Gold is product marketing manager for EMC Australia and New Zealand.