Rainfinity's NAS virtualization courts ILM

New applications bring pattern analysis to NAS solutions

The last time I spoke about Rainfinity was almost three years ago when the company first launched its NAS virtualization product, RainStorage.

Since then, Rainfinity has gradually introduced features such as support for the Windows file-sharing protocol, while maintaining the unique characteristics of its seamless, nondisruptive ├╝ber-NAS solution.

Why or when would you need RainStorage? My aforementioned column regarding the RainStorage initial launch gives a good summary, but in short, if you need flexibility when moving the content of heterogeneous NAS devices or file servers without disruption, RainStorage is probably your best bet.

"We operate at the protocol level and can support any solution that implements standard Unix or Windows file sharing," says Jack Norris, vice president of marketing at Rainfinity.

Norris adds that customers use RainStorage for a variety of projects that, for example, improve performance, increase storage utilization, or consolidate files from obsolete servers.

"All the benefits that products such as EMC Storage Router offer SANs, we offer on the NAS side," Norris says.

That reference to EMC is no accident. Rainfinity recently entered the exclusive circle of solutions that EMC resells -- a privilege that few storage vendors share.

It's easy to understand the reasons for that alliance: RainStorage -- which was recently certified to work with the full line of NAS appliances from EMC, including Celerra and NetWin -- offers a viable tool to consolidate and eventually replace other vendors' appliances.

At the same time, Rainfinity announced a new version of RainStorage. Version 4.5 is capable of analyzing the capacity and performance of NAS devices under its control.

Not only do these new applications relay information about capacity, performance, and network location, but they also give storage admins the ability to solve problems, allowing them, for example, to remove bottlenecks or to reallocate large file servers to a different storage group, according to Norris.

The applications' UIs provide charts that help admins immediately spot NAS devices that need attention. For example, I saw charts showing the capacity of each device as a separate bar, with the tallest bars signifying those devices in need of the most immediate attention.

Version 4.5 also helps users better allocate a heavily accessed or crowded NAS device, automatically finding possible new destinations with consistent capacity or access load.

Also worth mentioning is the ability to assign NAS devices to online or near-line storage categories. You can use the same analysis and management tools to balance allocation between those groups. This gives you the advantage of moving infrequently referenced files to less expensive near-line pools, freeing up space on the faster and more costly online groups.

As mentioned before, one of RainStorage's unique capabilities is that it preserves access during file movements, which means that storage optimization activities -- a basic pillar of ILM (information lifecycle management) -- should have little or no impact on users' productivity. Because of this, RainStorage could become yet another thread in the gigantic ILM fabric that EMC has been weaving throughout the years.

Does this remove other storage vendors from Rainfinity's periscope? Not necessarily. The standards-based nature of RainStorage makes it a suitable choice regardless of which brand is stamped on your NAS devices.

Join me on The Storage Network blog to discuss this and other topics.

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