George Crump explains on informationweek.com what Unified Storage si

What started as a whisper has now become a roar. All of a sudden every storage vendor you talk to has Unified Storage and all of a sudden you MUST have it. All of which begs the question, what is unified storage and do you need it?

It seems like most of the storage suppliers have some sort of unified storage strategy but they all seem very different from each other. Unified in storage terms most often means that the storage system can often do more than one thing, in most cases this means it can be a SAN (Storage Area Network) i.e. block storage and a NAS (Network Attached Storage) i.e. File Services.

For many vendors this means that the storage system can support multiple storage protocols, most often iSCSI and the two NAS protocols (NFS and CIFS), somehow many, not all leave out fibre, which seems odd since it is still the dominant protocol in larger enterprises. Unified storage should include support of fibre, especially if the target market is the larger data center.

In some cases a supplier will claim unification if they add a gateway type of device to a existing storage infrastructure, typically a NAS head that attaches to the SAN. This is more an amortization of storage resources more so than unification. It does not mean that it is a flawed strategy, just that its a bit of a stretch to equate a gateway to a unified storage system.

The goal of unification is to try to reduce the number of interfaces and devices you have in your storage environment and only a few of the suppliers accomplish this. Basically one box or system that does NAS and SAN all managed and controlled by a single storage software interface. In theory this should simplify storage management.

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ACT/Technico, now part of Elma Electronic Inc.’s  Systems division, offers the RAIDStor NAS Appliance, a compact, rugged network attached storage (NAS) platform that provides highly reliable, redundant data collection and storage in applications with high shock and vibration parameters.

The new 2U convection-cooled RAIDStor NAS Appliance is designed to meet MIL-S-901D Grade A (barge test) and MIL-S-167 (vibration) requirements with no data loss or hard drive damage, making the system ideal for harsh military environments. It is being deployed in equipment used on Aegis class cruisers.

The new RAIDStor NAS Appliance can be used in any application requiring a mission-critical data repository where data preservation is essential, including distributed communications processing, voice over IP (VoIP) and video streaming.

In addition to providing remote RAID array management through SNMP or a web interface, the system’s network attached topology facilitates real-time data access by sharing critical data across multiple users, reducing overall storage capacity needed, and ultimately, costs.

Built on a CompactPCI platform, the RAIDStor NAS Appliance comes with four hot swappable, removable storage drives—either solid state flash or rotating—in two horizontally-mounted 6U single slot blades. The RAIDStor offers RAID level 5 protection across the four drives for a distributed parity redundancy architecture. This design provides 100% data preservation even with a failure of any one drive. For applications requiring software loading, an optional DVD drive is also available.

For increased redundancy, the system’s hot swappable power supply can be expanded to up to two modules. The hot swappable drive bays can be easily removed for system upgrades and drive replacement. Rear I/O transition modules provide exceptional system configurability. The RAIDStor comes with driver support for VxWorks or Linux. Contact Elma for information on other operating system support.

The explosion in unstructured data, e-mail, and database sizes is contributing to the growth of networked storage requirements in the SMB space

Companies should move away from Direct Attached Storage (DAS), as there are plenty of alternatives to traditional DAS. NAS and the emergence of IP SAN have resulted in the availability of an affordable alternative to expensive FC SAN for SMBs. At the same time, small businesses with smaller data sizes continue to invest in JBODs in the DAS model.

The need for centralized storage to reduce storage and management costs is driving investments in networked storage such as Network Attached Storage (NAS) which is a server specifically tuned and optimized for file sharing that is connected to the client application servers or desktops over the TCP/IP Ethernet network and is mounted as if it were an internal drive. The key thing to remember is that NAS is generally easy for SMBs to deploy and use. It is only when the number of NAS systems begins to reach their maximum file or capacity limits, or proliferate, that storage management becomes a bit more complicated.

The key benefit of NAS is that it helps businesses consolidate structured and unstructured data into a file-sharing environment that utilizes the existing IP infrastructure. Since NAS clients rarely require any additional hardware to access data, the initial investment is contained to the NAS array itself. Further NAS leverages the existing IP infrastructure, which is inexpensive technology. It easily integrates with corporate security and authentication domains such as Radius, Active Directory and LDAP, making it an attractive option for SMBs.

In the external controller based storage market [FC SAN and IP SAN], one of the bigger issues that are being discussed from the market perspective is that of 'cost containment'. Given current economic conditions, businesses are thinking about what to do with their existing storage resources and how best to utilize the same. Alternatively, SMBs users are looking for an entry-level storage technology; this requirement is fulfilled by iSCSI SANs that offer an alternative to expensive FC technology.

Investment in FC SAN is justifiable if SMBs have data stores and are running business applications such as ERP, CRM or core banking and do not want to compromise on the performance of these applications. The major cost elements of FC SAN are FC disks, FC HBA, controllers and FC switches etc.

iSCSI SAN offers an inexpensive alternative to FC SAN where SMBs can compromise a bit on the application performance and data storage but yet get all the benefits of networked storage. The iSCSI SAN offers the advantages of a SAN without the complexity and expense of FC. It allows SMBs to leverage their existing IP network investment including familiar network management tools. Moreover, there is an abundance of people skilled in working on IP as compared to FC.

Although storage vendors have talked about storage virtualization it is still restricted to a few large customers. There is a cost to virtualize storage systems and we expect that mid-sized businesses that have a large storage footprint will look forward to adopting storage virtualization.

Check the source/website (expresscomputeronline.com) for more some NAS server details

Howtoforge has a useful tutorial showing how to set up an iSCSI target and initiator on Ubuntu 9.04:

This guide explains how you can set up an iSCSI target and an iSCSI initiator (client), both running Ubuntu 9.04. The iSCSI protocol is a storage area network (SAN) protocol which allows iSCSI initiators to use storage devices on the (remote) iSCSI target using normal ethernet cabling. To the iSCSI initiator, the remote storage looks like a normal, locally-attached hard drive.

Howto here

Nexenta Systems Inc. is adding automated high availability (HA) and 24/7 phone support to its NexentaStor 2.0 product as the company looks to boost the appeal of its ZFS and OpenSolaris-based data storage products for traditional enterprises.

NexentaStor combines Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Zettabyte File System (ZFS) and OpenSolaris operating system with an Ubuntu Linux user interface, and adds usability and data protection features for the open-source file system with its own software. According to Nexenta CEO Evan Powell, the company has collected 400 installations of its NexentaStor software since the community first launched in April 2008 at about 300 separate customer sites.

Version 2.0 is Nexenta's attempt to "cross the chasm" between the open-source community and the traditional enterprise. Chief among these new features is the ability to perform fully automated two-way high availability between ZFS server nodes. Nexenta has already made synchronous replication and manual failover available for ZFS, which doesn't offer those features natively, Powell said. With the release of Nexenta's High Availability 1.0 software, failover and failback to the secondary server can happen without human intervention.

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Powell also said Nexenta was adding what it calls "gold-level" support, or 24/7 tech support availability by phone and a four-hour on-site response time. "They may not buy gold, but they want to know we are able to offer it," he said of potential enterprise customers.

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