The Case For Network Attached Storage

Using Thin Server Technology

Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a solution that addresses a company'sstorage needs and can be as simple as attaching a computer with a disk to the network. Ifonly there was a painless NAS solution dedicated to specific storage tasks without havingto build an entire system -- one that you could literally take out of the box, plug in,play and forget about.

Thin servers, though unfamiliar to most users and resellers, generated over $1.1billion in sales in 1997 and are expected to grow over the next five years to reach $16billion. Though the majority of thin servers are used as device-controlled print servers,NAS using thin server technology is projected to become one of the industry's hot marketsegments. A host of thin server vendors and products already exist with many moreexpected. Most thin server-based NAS products involve file services that include cachingWeb-servers, NFS (mostly UNIX) and SMB file servers (for Microsoft environments).

According to research firm Dataquest (San Jose, Calif.), thin servers are anetwork-based hardware device designed to perform a specialized set of server functions.The following is a short list of components and attributes that comprise NAS thin servers:

Ease of Installation. Anyone should be able to set up a thin server in less than15 minutes. The end-user connects the device to a network with minimal configurationsettings. No software installation on the server or client should be required. A thinserver should be self-maintaining and require little maintenance over its life.

Low Total Cost. Thin servers must be less expensive than traditional serveralternatives in a given market. The lower cost can be seen in the purchase price butdefinitely must be seen in the overall cost of using the device.

Optimized Software Architecture. The OS should be minimal and include mechanismsneeded to support the core application(s). Those applications and their associatedutilities should be the only software running. End-user upgrades can be done over thenetwork without taking the thin server offline.

No Network Operating System License. End-users should be able to connect anunlimited number of clients to the thin server without incurring per-seat licensing fees.

Network Connectivity. LAN connectivity is a requirement. WAN via modem isoptional.

Storage Connectivity. Internal or external via any I/O architecture. Externalconnections must be industry standard.

Open-Standards. Supports Novell, NetWare, Windows NT, UNIX, OS/2 and MacintoshNOSes. NFS, NCP, SMB may be supported to provide greater ease of use for certain types ofclients, but should not serve as the primary protocols.

Remote Management. Performed via a Web browser by any client. No monitor orkeyboard attaches to the thin server.

There are many NAS vendors with thin server-based disk primary solutions currentlyavailable. They include Auspex, Axis, Creative Design Solutions, HP, IBM, Meridian,Microtest, Mylex, Network Storage Solutions, Network Power & Light, Network Appliance,Omitex, and Procom. Tape storage vendors like ATL Products will soon be introducingturnkey automated backup products. These network attached storage libraries will comecomplete with server, backup software, tape drives, tape libraries and robotics and willbe used for "lights-out" backup and restoration that can be centrallyadministered from anywhere on the Web.

Dataquest anticipates revenue for thin server-based NAS will account for 53 percent oftotal thin server revenues by the year 2000 and 66 percent (of an $11 billion market) by2002.