Latest NetApp Filer Brings NAS to Data Center

As abusiness, Network Appliance Inc. wants to convert its strength in networkattached storage (NAS) into a broader presence in the storage market.

Thecompany’s latest step in that effort came earlier this month with the releaseof a new line of its bread-and-butter NAS device. While the new 800 series offilers represents an evolutionary step over previous Network Appliance (www.netapp.com) filers, several of the improvements pushthe NetApp NAS devices to a level worthy of data center-class consideration.

The newfilers are the NetApp F840 and the NetApp F840c. Each represents a majorincrease in storage capacity and speed over Network Appliance’s previoustop-of-the-line filer, the NetApp F760. The F760 maxed out at 3 TB. The F840doubles that to 6 TB; the F840c quadruples it to 12 TB through an active/activecluster configuration.

NetworkAppliances’ internal performance measuring stick, operations per second, alsoimprove, the company says. The F760 handled 7,750 operations per second in alab environment. The F840 ratchets the benchmark up to 15,000, and theclustered version handles 26,000.

Availabilityclaims by the company are in the 99.99 percent range. By way of comparison,that’s an order of magnitude more rigorous than most OEMs will be supportingright away with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 Datacenter Server.

With thenew filers comes a new version of Network Appliance’s internal operatingsystem, Data ONTAP 6.0. The microkernel of about 1 million lines of codeprovides the base that allows Network Appliance to store Windows files viaCIFS, Unix files via NFS and other file types and retain file permissionsacross operating systems.

Oneimprovement to Data ONTAP is an increase in the number of snapshot copies itcan maintain, jumping from 20 in the last version to 31.

Snapshotcopies are 128 KB files that record the file table that contains the pointersto each file’s physical position on a disk. When a user changes a file, thechanges are written to a new block, and the pointer changes in the file table.By using a snapshot, an administrator or can retrieve the previous version ofthe file by using the snapshot. Network Appliance officials say administratorswho use the snapshot features need to keep about 10 percent of overall storagecapacity free for the old disk blocks.

Theincrease in the number of snapshot copies the system can maintain means that,an administrator can keep 50 percent more historical versions on a singleserver, giving users more granular file retrieval capabilities. But it also hasvalue in an enterprise where filers are being mirrored to multiple locations.Allowing for 20 snapshot copies means 10 mirrored filers are possible. Thatmaximum number is now 15 filers.

Along with theenterprise-class capabilities comes enterprise-class prices. The base price foran F840c with CIFS, 10/100BT, and 504 GB is $318,900. The base price for anF840 with CIFS, 10/100BT, and 126 GB is $110,700.

NetworkAppliance has about 14,500-plus filers in the field. Almost all NetworkAppliance’s customers buy the systems for use with Windows NT files, and thevast majority have heterogeneous environments and store Unix files on the samebox, says Rod Matthews, product marketing manager at Network Appliance.

In Windowsnetworks, the filers appear as Windows NT 4.0 member servers. They authenticateagainst Windows NT or Windows 2000 domain controllers and serve files toclients. Future releases will make the server appear as a Windows 2000 Serverto the network.

Othercommon configurations in Windows environments include dedicated storage deviceswith a Microsoft BackOffice server. In those cases, customers often run aGigabit Ethernet pipe between the SQL Server or Exchange Server and the NetworkAppliance filer, Matthews says. Similar configurations exist with Oracledatabases and Lotus Domino groupware servers, he says.

To maintainits year-over-year growth of 70 percent per quarter for 18 consecutivequarters, Network Appliance is looking to expand its reach.

Numbersfrom analyst firm Forrester Research Inc. (www.forrester.com) indicate Network Appliance is in the rightarea. Forrester estimates the ratio of server costs to storage costs in 1999was about 1-to-1. By 2003, Forrester projects the ratio will be 3-to-1 withstorage costs holding the bigger piece of the pie.