There are many reasons to complain about storage, but lack of variety is not one.
Never before has the market offered so many different NAS (network attached storage) solutions, ranging from consumer-grade desktop boxes to sophisticated clustered solutions. This incredible variety of NAS products is the market reaction to customer demand, fueled by relentless growth in the amount of data being stored digitally.
According to a study published in 2003 by the University of California at Berkeley, about 5 exabytes (that’s 5 million terabytes) of new data were created and stored in 2002. Another recent study, this one conducted by the Enterprise Strategy Group, predicts that the overall volume of data archived by government and corporations will grow to 27 exabytes by the year 2010.
Where is all that data being stored? Apart from a few exceptions, notably e-mail messages and transactional records, it doesn’t end up in a database. Most of the new information clogging our storage arteries is unstructured data created in a variety of formats, including images, sound snippets, data series, and, of course, office documents.
To keep up with this massive influx of unstructured data, storage vendors are reacting with products that offer more storage for the buck and place equal importance on serving files as on serving blocks of data. In fact, many vendors are combining those two equally important data-handling approaches in a single product.
Enter the world of unified storage. These next-generation solutions are capable of dishing out SAN volumes to attach to your servers for high transactional database performance while reading and writing files for a variety of clients. Only a few years ago, Network Appliance, the pioneer in this space, was unique in offering unified storage. Today various vendors have followed in NetApp’s footsteps, offering combined NAS plus SAN solutions targeting customers ranging from home users to Fortune 500 companies.
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A new generation of NAS
“Our customers are dissatisfied with the cost and complexity of traditional storage systems,” says Brett Goodwin, vice president of marketing and business development at Isilon Systems. Goodwin adds that a company such as Kodak, which manages more than 1 billion digital images shared across 23 million online users, could never have solved its business problems given the performance and scalability limitations of traditional systems.