Data Deluge Sparks Mass Storage Boom

Data Deluge Sparks Mass Storage Boom<@VM>The NAS Explosion<@VM>NAS Product Vendors

By Jon William Toigo

Businesses and government organizations are producing 60 percent to 100 percent more data annually, fueling a surge in the sale of storage platforms, according to industry analysts.

By 2000, as much as 75 cents of every dollar spent on information technology will be spent on storage, said Bob Pasker, senior vice president for the Yankee Group in Boston.

Network-attached storage is one storage technology that is growing in popularity because it is easy to deploy and use. NAS devices consist of disk drives or arrays of drives that are mated to intelligent electronics, and network interface cards that enable them to be installed directly on to TCP/IP, Microsoft NT or Novell networks.

NAS devices deliver an instantaneous boost in data storage without a lot of hassle. Once a NAS device is in place, it simply appears as another drive letter on the desktops of the end users, providing much needed elbow room for file storage.

The simplicity and comparatively low price of NAS devices are driving sales projections up and to the right, said James Staten, a senior analyst with Dataquest, San Jose, Calif. Staten said NAS product sales will grow from 86,598 units in 1998 to over 1 million units by 2002.

NAS devices with very large storage capacities (in the half-terabyte range) are available from Auspex Systems and Network Appliance, both of Santa Clara, Calif. Beneath this high-end tier are a growing number of NAS products with smaller capacities and lower price tags, aimed at work group and local area network environments.

"In 1998, we saw a networked storage market of about $1.2 billion," said Farid Neema, president of Peripheral Concepts, Santa Barbara, Calif. About $400 million consisted of NAS products, mainly from top-tier vendors like Network Appliance and Auspex, and entry-level products from a large number of smaller companies. Among the latter are Meridian Data, Scotts Valley, Calif.; ECCS, Tinton Falls, N.J.; and Procom Technology, Santa Ana, Calif.

Neema said he expects the market for storage to grow as much as 50 percent annually, with the percentage of revenue from NAS devices gaining on the percentage of revenue from general purpose servers configured in networked storage roles.

"Considering the low price point of entry-level and work group class products — Meridian's product, for example, is priced under $1,000 — NAS vendors will need to sell a lot of product to equal the revenue from general purpose servers used as filers."

Price and simplicity are two factors that drove Don Wells, senior systems engineer with the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, to acquire a NAS device in January.

"We needed more storage space to meet the needs of our 550 end users. We didn't want to buy a new server just to add disk drives, but we did want a storage solution that could grow over time," he said.

Wells said his acquisition of a NetForce 100 NAS from Procom Technology, at $9,500 for 67 GB of fault-tolerant storage, had already proven itself. "I already plan to add at least two more NetForce NAS devices in the next 30 to 45 days." he said.

Wells is responsible for providing information systems and networking capabilities for the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron, which designs and constructs new facilities, and maintains and repairs existing facilities and utility systems at Nellis.

It also provides fire protection, crash rescue and sanitation services as well as dormitory, furnishings and family housing management on the base.

It also supports both Nellis and its surrounding communities with major accident and natural disaster response and recovery operations.

Wells said his quest for a file storage solution began in late 1998. "We were concerned about the storage requirements associated with adding more people to our network," he said.

About 85 percent of the squadron's 550 personnel use the network and system resources to perform their day-to-day work, he said.

Wells manages an ethernet network connecting end users to four server systems. "Per user file and e-mail storage requirements were already quite large," he said, "especially for the 40 engineers in our squadron who routinely deal with very large engineering drawings stored on one of our Compaq systems."

Wells said he was puzzled over the issue of buying servers to add storage capacity when a Procom Technology sales representative happened to call on him.

"We had purchased other Procom products before with good results, and our sales representative was a trusted adviser," he said. "I explained my problem to him, and he suggested that we look into NetForce 100, a network-attached storage product."

Wells learned more about the product and about NAS and decided to pursue the alternative mass storage solution on a trial basis. Procom referred the matter to the Presidio Corp., a Lanham, Md., reseller/integrator that had consulted for Nellis Air Force Base for the previous four years.

Kevin Young, a sales representative for Presidio, said his firm routinely provides presales consulting to Wells, "helping to translate his requirements into products."

"We coordinated the shipment of a NetForce 100 unit to Nellis for a 40-day evaluation period in early January of this year," Young said. "Then we processed the purchase of the unit as [General Services Administration] scheduled business."

Deploying the NetForce 100 was a simple matter, Wells said. "The advantage of this NAS device is that it installs in about 10 minutes if you do it correctly," he said.

When the evaluation unit was received, Wells tried to install it without reading the entire procedure first. In the end, he had to order a new chassis, move the disk drives from the old chassis to the new, then perform the installation instructions in the proper order. "It took a lot longer than it might otherwise have taken," he said.

Wells said his error did have the advantage of introducing him to the internal components of the NetForce 100 and its fault tolerance capabilities. The product provides a "hot spare" drive that ensures that its drive array will continue to operate if a single disk fails.

The NAS device installed quickly into the Nellis Air Force Base 10/100 ethernet network, Wells said. He added an IP address and system name, and the unit was up and running.

"We wanted to evaluate the performance of this unit on a 10 MB per second segment of our network before deploying it in the 100 MB per second backbone. It has performed very well in the 10BaseT ethernet," he said.

Wells, who called the solution a great buy, said he plans to use this approach when adding more storage to his network in the future. The purchase of the first NAS device was made on his government credit card. Two additional NetForce 100 units will acquired over the next six months as part of a new contract with Presidio, he said.

The new contract will include integration activities as well as hardware acquisitions. "We want to engage Presidio to analyze traffic in our network and to determine the best deployment locations for the new units from a network design perspective," Wells said.

He also wants the integrator to review his NAS deployment to ensure that the squadron is getting maximum benefit from the solution.

Wells' positive experience with NAS products is echoed by Verlin Cross, senior forensic scientist for computers at the forensics laboratory of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ashland, Ore.

Cross said the forensics laboratory, which provides wildlife-related crime lab-oratory services to wildlife law enforcement officers, required additional storage for digital photographs of wildlife crime scenes.

"I wanted a storage solution that would not put a load on my existing NT servers," said Cross, referring to his acquisition of a Procom Technology NetForce 100 NAS, with 50 GB of storage, in September 1998. He worked through a local MicroAge Computer Store to acquire the product, which cost under $10,000.

"At the time, the NetForce product was new and not GSA-scheduled product, so I went open market on the purchase based on a recommendation from a friend who worked for MicroAge and follow-up discussions with Procom," Cross said.

Cross said the NAS product provided more than he expected for the price, and meets the storage requirements for the laboratory's staff of 35 and 40 volunteers. He said he has recommended the product to other agencies and would purchase another "in a heart beat" if he needed more storage.

Page Tagizad, product manager for Procom Technology, explained that the computing environments at both the Fish and Wildlife Service and Nellis Air Force Base were well-suited to NetForce 100. The current generation of NetForce products support only "straight NT environments," he said.

"We support SMB/CIFS [NT network] file systems and provide built-in NT domain services support in the product," Tagizad said. "We will add Unix Network File System support to the product in 1999."

While the NetForce 100 "is targeted to large work group settings with 100 or fewer users," Tagizad said, multiple units can be used to provide file-sharing support for larger groups of end users.

Procom Technology's NetForce product family competes with products by a growing number of other NAS vendors. (See table.)

Collectively, NAS products deliver much needed capacity to end users who want to add more storage capacity without the expense of buying another server system.
The network-attached storage explosion, which began in 1996, originated with the CD-ROM library industry, according to James Staten, senior analyst with Dataquest, San Jose, Calif.

Vendors of CD towers wanted to network-enable their products but didn't want the overhead and expense of a front-end server. It just wasn't cost effective.

According to Staten, CD-ROM library vendors first set upon the notion of embedding the server directly into their storage products.

Some NAS products use conventional Microsoft Windows NT Server or Unix operating system kernels that have been stripped of other functions and are optimized for input/output services.

Others use real-time operating system kernels developed by NAS vendors themselves and implemented on NAS chip sets.

In effect, the NAS device is a network "appliance" that does one thing — store and serve files — and does it better and more cost effectively than the traditional server-attached storage model, according to end users of the technology.

— Jon William Toigo

A partial list of network-attached storage product vendors and their products:

Advanced Media Services

Wilmington, Mass.

Network Attached Media Server,

JAZServer, DakotaStor, DakotaRAID


Carlsbad, Calif.

LynxxNSS Network Storage System


Santa Clara, Calif.

4Front NS2000, AS100, AS200


Salt Lake City

ProLinQ Sharer

Creative Design Solutions

Santa Clara, Calif.

CDS Plug-n-Stor

Meridien Data

Scotts Valley, Calif.

Snap! Server

MTI Technology Corp.

Anaheim, Calif.
MTI Gladiator NAS

Network Storage Solutions

Chantilly, Va.


Network Appliance

Santa Clara, Calif.

Multiprotocol Filers

Polywell Computers

San Francisco


Procom Technology

Santa Ana, Calif.

NetForce 100, 1000, 2000 and 2200

Raidtec Corp.

Alpharetta, Ga.


REALM Information Technologies

Norcross, Ga.

REALM Universal Professional NAS??

Unisys Corp.

Mission Viejo, Calif.

PrimeStor NAS2000

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