Unify network-attached storage (NAS) with file area networking (FAN)

Network-attached storage is often added onto as more storage space is need. Often the NAS boxes will be located in separate data centers and not have a standard naming convention. A file area network can unify all the NAS boxes and make data management much easier.

Chris Evans
 

File area networking (FAN) is a relatively new concept that represents a collection of integrated resources and services used to provide a single file-based network. Most companies will have network-attached storage (NAS) resources dispersed around their enterprises. A FAN can bring these disparate resources together and provide your customers with added value -- but how?

Move network-attached storage resources to a unified address space

Most organizations will have implemented many NAS servers over the years. Typically, new servers are deployed to replace legacy equipment. However, the legacy equipment is kept longer than expected. As a consequence, many big companies will have NAS shares located in multiple datacenters with inconsistent naming standards. In addition, business units may have implemented their own NAS infrastructures.

The solution is to implement a unified address space (UAS). FAN technology can be used to plug existing NAS resources into a single unified file system address space. This not only has the benefit of enabling NAS resources to be easily located, it also positions the environment for utilizing other FAN functionality, which may include planning for future upgrades and expansions.

FAN and NAS
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You should work with your customers to move their NAS environments into a single unified address space. Many products on the market offer this, either by providing a virtual access point that manages all storage requests, or by integrating with Active Directory and Microsoft's Distributed File System (DFS). Look at your customer's NAS infrastructure requirements. Do they require integration with Active Directory or are they a major network file system (NFS) user?

Optimize FAN storage for NAS

Once data has been brought together under a unified address space, you have options to optimize and manage FAN storage more effectively. Once data is managed under UAS, a number of benefits may be exploited.

Migration

FAN technology enables data to be mapped to a UAS and migrated transparently between NAS devices. This can be used for hardware consolidation, to replace aging legacy equipment, and to manage workloads and performance across the enterprise.

Replication

FAN enables data replication between NAS resources that may be located in the same or remote datacenters. Through a FAN infrastructure, replication can be used to improve data availability and user response times.

Storage tiering

File-based data is ideal for the application of information lifecycle management, as it already has many attributes associated with it and most data is usually written once and reread infrequently. Under a FAN infrastructure, data can be moved transparently between tiers, ensuring data is located on the most cost-effective hardware platform.

Data availability

In conjunction with replication and migration, a FAN can be used to improve the availability of user access to file-based data. This is achieved through redundant FAN hardware that can be deployed in geographically dispersed datacenters.

Developing FAN services and solutions

Clearly FAN offers significant functionality over normal file-based NAS offerings. Once a unified file system is in place, you can offer your customers additional features to help them improve their existing NAS infrastructure. Look to evaluate and target key NAS issues that can be addressed with FAN, which may include:

  • Retiring legacy equipment
  • Implementing a tiered NAS infrastructure
  • Implementing a highly available NAS infrastructure
  • Implementing a unified NAS security policy
  • Reducing storage costs

FAN is an emerging technology. Positioning for a FAN infrastructure now can reap rewards for your customers in the future.

About the author: Chris M. Evans is an independent storage consultant with Brookend Ltd., with nearly 20 years' experience in a wide range of storage platforms covering mainframe, open systems and Windows. Chris specializes in network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) technologies, designing and implementing large-scale infrastructure projects for major financial corporations. Online, Chris maintains www.storagewiki.com; you can catch up with him on his blog at www.storagegurus.com.


 

This was first published in January 2007

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