Similar to tailoring or customizing other technologies or items that you buy to meet your particular needs and preferences, modifying network-attached storage (NAS) to align with your specific requirements can involve many different options. For example, you may choose to accessorize your NAS with additional software or functionality if it is not already built in or included, such as local or remote mirroring for data replication, advanced security capabilities, including internal appliance- or external appliance-based encryption or data footprint reduction capabilities.
Another approach to accessorizing is to use appliances to compress or compact data in-flight as it is being written to or read from a NAS storage device or for when data is transmitted over distance for remote data replication. In-line data compaction appliances my not have the impressive compression ratios heard about by deduplication products targeted at backup. However, the advantage of in-line compaction appliances is that they can be easily deployed and transparently provide compaction for not only backup, but for archive and primary data, as well.
WAFS are a means of accessorizing your NAS to improve the service delivery and access experience of remote users and applications. WAFS can and has been positioned by some vendors as a means to eliminate remote and distributed file servers. However, WAFS can also be used to enhanced remote data access where file servers need to be present in remote offices or branch offices (ROBO), including facilitating data backups to central locations.
Some other examples of accessories for NAS include:
• Data footprint reduction and compaction appliances
• Data security and encryption appliances
• Backup and archiving solutions
• Monitoring and management software
• Data protection management tools
• WAFS, also known as WADS, WADM and WAAS by different vendors
• File virtualization appliances
• I/O and performance acceleration appliances
• Replication and data migration appliances
• File or data indexing and content searching
NAS accessory vendors include Asigra, Brocade Communications Systems Inc., EMC Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Gear6 Inc., Network Appliance Inc., Riverbed Technologies Inc., Storewiz Inc. and Symantec Corp. among others.
Something to watch out for, with regard to accessorizing your NAS, is how will the various solutions interoperate with each other. Also, consider what additional software, hardware, networks and professional services will be needed.
Another thing to consider is technology stacking and its impact on interoperability and transparency. For example, how do encryption, compaction and acceleration appliances, which may be in-band sitting in front or behind each other, scale in terms of performance, availability and ease of management.
One view of the proliferation of NAS accessories is that NAS has not yet matured or lacks the features required to make it a viable and enterprise-class technology. While that view certainly holds water for some NAS implementations and vendors, the other view is that NAS has matured and its wide-scale deployment can justify and support aftermarket accessorizing. The bottom line is that there are many different approaches to customize and tailor your NAS to meet your specific needs. Which accessories are best suited for your environment will depend on your needs, as well as the coexistence of different technologies.
About the author: Greg Schulz is founder and senior analyst with the IT infrastructure analyst and consulting firm StorageIO Group. Greg is also the author and illustrator of Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier) and has contributed material to Storage magazine and other TechTarget venues.
This was first published in June 2007