NeoPath offers clear route to flexible file server management
File Director's virtualized network shares make storage changes a walk in the park
Many organizations find that file servers tend to pop up all over the place and are often hard to manage. Worse, consolidating the servers may disrupt end-users, because consolidation usually requires changing network mappings and user permissions.
NeoPath’s File Director offers a solution to all those woes: virtualizing network shares and presenting them in a manner that users are familiar with. Also, the file system hardware can be changed in the background as desired, with the users remaining blissfully unaware of the alterations.
This virtualization capability isn’t unique (see our review of the OnStor Bobcat 2200 NAS Gateway), but NeoPath makes it simple to use and provides great storage management tools as well.
Share and share alike
File Director handles both CIFS (used by Windows) and NFS (used by Unix and Linux) volumes, allowing the administrator to create new shares or virtual volumes that match the names of existing network file servers, removing the need to redo drive mappings but requiring that the original file servers’ IP addresses be changed or new names be created.
Either way, once File Director creates the virtual shares, there is a complete disconnect between the hardware and what the end-user sees in the file browser. Files can be migrated to second-tier storage, moved from one file server to another, consolidated on a single system, or distributed for fault tolerance — all transparently.
Users can access the files, and even change them, while the administrator is moving files from one back-end location to another. Any writes to the files are preserved and made to both copies of the file if necessary.
In addition to virtualization, File Director offers management tools. Files can be identified by size, last time accessed, file type, frequency of use, and more; they can also be automatically or manually moved from one back-end volume to another based on these criteria.
For instance, you might move all JPEG files from the high-speed file server to a second, lower-performance file server, and users would never know the files had moved because they would still appear to be in their original locations. Even if File Director is removed, hidden directories pointing to the new locations are maintained, so the files will not be lost.
I reviewed a single File Director, but most enterprises will opt for the clustered pair configuration for high availability. The price is $29,995 for one and $49,995 for a pair. According to NeoPath, one pair should be enough to support as many as 20 back-end file servers or a maximum of 100TB of user data.
File Director’s setup is straightforward, with no surprises in its initial configuration. The only tough decision is whether to duplicate existing volumes for transparency to end-users. If you create share names identical to your existing shares, you won’t have to make changes to the workstation drive mappings, but you will have to change your DNS mappings for the host names of the existing back-end servers, by changing their host names, their IP addresses, or both.