Parting words on SNW

Did I mention there’s good news out of Storage Networking World?

I know, I know. You're wondering how I could possibly write another column on Storage Networking World. But I just can’t keep all this good stuff to myself. 

And it is all good stuff, because this SNW took place while vendors are sailing the best economic waters in the last few years. So it should be expected that this year's show had some rich announcements from vendors.

The improved economy has resulted in several new partnerships such as the one between backup application developer Bakbone Software and Snap Appliance, the pervasive desktop to mid-enterprise NAS appliance supplier.

In fact, Snap Appliance attracted quite a crowd at its booth with the new Snap Server 15000, another enterprise-suited unit that can expand from 5TB to 29TB by adding up to seven expansion arrays.

Usually an announcement such as the 15000 would be news enough to pique people's interest, but at the show Snap Appliance also revealed a new version of its Guardian OS operating system. They added significant improvements including single-console management of multiple appliances and business-friendly, nondisruptive capacity updates.

Don’t get me wrong. Those features are important, but the real jewel of Guardian OS v3 is introducing the concept of unified storage to Snap Server appliances, which in essence means that you can do concurrent file and block serving from those devices.

Snap Appliance had briefed me on that topic before, and I became a believer after seeing a convincing demo of provisioning a volume from a Snap Server 15000 while the unit was seamlessly serving files to other applications.

Let me emphasize that again: A single Snap Server 15000 can act both as NAS and SAN device, which should bring much desired simplification to storage management.

Interestingly, for a few hundreds dollars apiece, existing Snap customers can update old appliances to the new OS, and stop agonizing over the old filer- versus block-serving device debate.

A partnership with Bakbone Software, which initially translates into an embedded version of Bakbone's NetVault 7 for Guardian OS, drives the appliance backups and restores to connected tape libraries. Additional backup features should follow soon.

It’s easy to infer that strengthening Guardian OS to include features that go beyond traditional file serving is part of the Snap Appliance strategy to oppose NAS appliances based on the quickly spreading Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003.

Speaking of which, you’ll probably roll your eyes with me whenever someone mentions that the most recent version of Exchange does not run on Windows Storage Server 2003-based NAS appliances. Well, from Redmond comes some relief in that area.

In essence, Microsoft announced at the show an update to Windows Storage Server 2003 that will make possible it possible to install Exchange Server 2003 on NAS appliances.

Exchange customers will be glad to hear that they are no longer forced to deploy their e-mail server on a SAN (which they can still do if needed), and Microsoft business partners should have an edge selling more NAS appliances. 

Microsoft also revealed a handful of SAN management improvements for Windows Server 2003 that should translate into better diagnostic tools for FC (Fibre Channel) networks and provide native support for multi-path I/O over iSCSI (Internet SCSI) networks.

Apparently following customer demand, Microsoft even extended support for iSCSI to the Datacenter Edition of Windows Storage Server, which tells me that large IT departments are not necessarily focused only on FC.

However, this topic calls for a fresh start and a new column. Stay tuned.