Enterprise Storage<br>DataDirect Pops Out SAN-in-a-Box

DataDirect Networks Inc. unveiled what it calls a "SAN Appliance," an all-in-one storage area network (SAN) designed to simplify and accelerate the process of accessing shared data.

It's not exactly a SAN-in-a-box, but the SAN DataDirector, includes the switches, interconnects, and software to allow a large number of servers to access storage facilities in a much simpler fashion than current SANs. More importantly, it's operating system agnostic.

Robert Woolery, senior director of strategic business at DataDirect (www.datadirectnet.com), says there are several areas where the DataDirector separates itself from high-capacity switches in the industry. First, Woolery explains that switches focus on quality of connection. DataDirector focuses on quality of service. It also includes a "SAN operating system" that isn't found in switches.

The new product is designed to plug into any present networking environment -- from client/server models to first generation SANs -- while also taking advantage of current storage facilities. "We decided it has to be heterogeneous," Woolery says. "In doing that it allows us to create a device that's a lot simpler to use, and more cost effective and reliable."

James Opfer, senior analyst of server storage and RAID at Dataquest (www.dataquest.com), says the most impressive aspect of DataDirector is its file system software that allows multiple operating systems -- be they Unix, Windows NT, or others -- to access the same data. This isn't typical of a regular switch. The other obvious advantage, explains Opfer, is the all-in-one package. "For some customers it would be attractive to have the solution delivered to you instead of a recipe for putting that system in place," he says.

Remaining compatible and simple isn't enough to sell the SAN Appliance. That's why DataDirect added several intelligence and security features to the unit. Woolery says one problem with today's infrastructure is that it hasn't adapted from transferring old data -- such as words and numbers -- to transferring new data -- such as pictures and sound.

The SAN DataDirector will recognize and give priority to the files that need the bandwidth instead of sending them through the same pipe as text. The administrator also has the option of partitioning bandwidth and groups of ports to certain users and groups who have priority processing permissions. The software in the DataDirector can help out the administrator by recognizing what files people regularly send through the system and file a report on it.

This would be helpful in an e-business environment where partners and customers access a company's network. For these purposes, administrators would want to partition more bandwidth and ports to their most valued business partners.

DataDirector's masking and zoning software understands that not just anyone should be able to plug into the system and access the storage facility. Therefore, it secures the storage that some users may not have access to so they don't stray into someone else's data.

Another service of the DataDirector is the administration GUI that can come in the form of HTML, command line, or a central administration console. There is no Microsoft Management Console snap-in to date, but the company is working on it.

DataDirect was once MegaDrive Systems, a company that provided high-bandwidth solutions for the commercial and government space. As the company entered the Fibre Channel SAN business, it needed a network management solution. It merged with SAN software company Impactdata and took the new name DataDirect Networks.