Auspex Renews Focus on NT

After ceding NT file serving mind share and market share to competitors, Auspex Systems is working on a comeback in the Windows NT file serving business.

After ceding NT file serving mind share and market share to competitors, Auspex Systems ( is working on a comeback in the Windows NT file serving business. Backing up the effort, the company announced a new version of its Netservices software, which runs on the company’s NS2000 file server and is said to boost file serving performance in Windows client and server environments.

Historically, Auspex has targeted the Unix market with its Network File System (NFS) servers. Through the integration of better Common Internet File System (CIFS) capabilities into Netservices 2.0, the company is hoping to up the ante with file server competitors, such as Network Appliance Inc. ( Netservices 2.0 will be available June 15.

Part of the improvement comes from the integration of CIFS at the kernel level on the file server engine in the NS2000. The company says CIFS capabilities on its older system was not a kernel-level service and didn’t offer the level of performance that Netservices 2.0 can when running on the NS2000 system. "We were doing some emulation overtop of NFS. CIFS was not embedded in the kernel," recalls Greg Govatos, manager of worldwide marketing at Auspex. "It was a product that was not doing very well in the marketplace," he concedes.

The integration of CIFS support required a rewrite of the Netservices operating system kernel. One benefit that came out of the tighter integration was better file locking and sharing between NFS and CIFS client requests.

The company points to test results conducted by Ziff-Davis Testing and Analysis Group that used the NetBench 5.01 test, where the NS2000 system achieved a file serving capability of 55 MBps. By comparison, a four-processor Intel system performed at 25 MBps.

In the past, the company had offered a system that included a processor running Windows NT, which worked in conjunction with a file server processor—running a dedicated operating system. The new version of the NS2000 architecture and Netservices continues to use a similar architecture, where the NT Services are delivered from a thin operating system running on an Intel processor, while the management processor is a SPARC system running Solaris.

The thin operating system was developed by Auspex and CrosStor Software Inc. ( It supports a collection of protocols including CIFS, NFS and TCP/IP.

"It’s not a Unix kernel. So it really is not based on Unix, it’s based TCP/IP, network drivers, [and] CIFS," Govatos maintains. The kernel and file system services run on two Intel Pentium II processors that make up what the company calls an I/O Node. Multiple I/O Nodes can be added to the system that extend scalability in a relatively linear manner. The I/O Nodes communicate to the SPARC management processor using 400 MBps connection, but the SPARC engine does not participate in the actual file serving operations.

There are other services the system offers to NT users, including the ability to take on a primary or secondary domain controller role, and to be managed through Windows NT Server Manager.

Windows NT compatibility beyond NT 4.0 presents a new hurdle, which Govatos says the company is addressing. "We’ve already got a design effort in house to be a Windows 2000 file server. We’ve got a team of people designing our Windows 2000 platform."

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