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File Networking on Friday

April 28, 2007 - 1 Comment

Am sitting in my office today recovering a bit from a head cold induced by a cruise ship in the Caribbean. These ships, while making an amenable focus on the eradication of germs and diseases by rampant hand washing and sanitizing stations, could still be known as the ‘100,000-ton Petrie Dishes of the Sea’. But I digress – this is a blog about data center technologies and today we are going to incite a bit of a conversation about file networking.There is a new term getting bandied about — one of the ‘File Area Network’. This sounds marginally contrived since these systems run on top of traditional LAN technologies, but let’s not debate too much the relative merits of weak taxonomy 🙂 These file management systems and file virtualization systems allow for a single global namespace in the enterprise and probably more importantly, abstract the file naming and external volume association from the storage medium and device itself.This allows the IT administrator to start provisioning storage resources based on policy rather than user preference and user selection. For example an enterprise could choose to have a file share that represented itself as the ‘Z:’ drive to an end-user. However, whatever files the end user copied to the Z: drive would actually be stored across 3 or 4 different storage targets based on metadata and user information relevant to the actual files being stored. For instance all MP3 and MP4 files could be stored on a low-cost medium, while anything with the words ‘Company Confidential’ coming from an end-user in the Finance department could be stored on a Tier-1 storage target while ensuring the data was encrypted in flight and at rest.This is just a simple example of how file virtualization technologies could be used – there are many more. As you may have heard Cisco announced the acquisition of NeoPath a leader in this space and as we move forward with the productization of this technology into network transport platforms we are trying to get a feel for how you would use these capabilities and make them part of your operational procedures.So how would you use file virtualization? What do you see as the major opportunity for the technology? What platforms should we integrate it into? What business problems will it help you solve?Thank youdg

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  1. You should check out the 3 customer presentations given by actual users of the technology at last week’s SNW. Representatives of Wiley Publishing, Quest Diagnostics, and Comcast presented useful insights about how they implemented FAN technology to reduce backup cost, reduces the need for new high-end disk capacity, and improves operational efficiency.For a definitive understanding of the industry’s view, see Rick Gillett’s SNIA FAN Tutorial.We would also welcome your participation in the SNIA FAN Task Force.