Vendors Rally Behind New File Access Protocol

Network Appliance, a provider of network-attached storage (NAS) solutions, is spearheading an industry effort to develop a new protocol for direct, memory-to-memory file access designed to boost the performance of Internet and database applications. Intel and Seagate have joined Network Appliance in work on the protocol, called Direct Access File System (DAFS).

Supporters of DAFS claim that the protocol will allow businesses to employ storage appliances based on open standards at a fraction of the cost of traditional, proprietary mainframe and data center clustering technology. DAFS is touted especially for heterogeneous data-sharing environments, in which users access common pools of highly available data across operating systems.

Storage consultant and author Jon William Toigo, commenting on the announcement of the DAFS initiative, said, "DAFS will set the storage for plug-and-play SANs that utilize NAS devices as secure, highly manageable portals into enterprise storage infrastructures."

Network Appliance expects DAFS to deliver a total performance improvement of 40 percent over other file systems. The protocol uses the Virtual Interface (VI) architecture as its underlying transport mechanism. VI allows data transfer directly to or from applications buffers. It also allows applications to access VI-capable hardware directly without operating system intervention. Since applications can access I/O directly, the latency and overhead of data sharing decrease significantly.

A new organization, made up of Network Appliance, Intel, Seagate and other vendors, has been established to make the DAFS protocol available to the industry. The organization, called the DAFS Collaborative (, will solicit industry review and feedback before the new file system is submitted to a standards body. Vendors participating in the Collaborative include ATTO Technology, BROCADE, Chaparral Network Storage, Cisco, Crossroads, Earthlink, Eurologic, Fujitsu, Gadzoox Networks, Giganet, HighGround, Intel, Landmark Graphics, Media 100, NetLedger, Network Appliance, Oracle, Qlogic, Quantum/ATL, Red Hat, Seagate, Spectra Logic, StorageNetworks, Troika Networks, VA Linux and Vixel. The group is soliciting additional participants.