Storage Tanked?: Page 2

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Analysts See Potential, But Have Questions

Analysts, however, were not so quick to dismiss IBM's new technology.

Enterprise Storage Group Analyst Steve Kenniston finds promise in SAN File System, noting that there are many, many applications that could benefit from this type of technology, and that, when paired with IBM's SAN Volume System and Controller, could yield some solid virtualization capabilities. He sees SAN File System being deployed in a lot of niche places where large file types exist — something that could work well under Oracle's Real Application Cluster (RAC) environment, for example.

"As far as the competition — HP is working on something, but the real thing I believe is what does HDS and EMC do?" Kenniston wonders. "Both big storage companies [compete with the high end that IBM has in Shark] but have no file system software or "real" virtualization software that will scale like Tank. They don't own the IP for it and would have to leverage somebody else's system. That said, they need something, and due to what it takes to build one, it MUST be a buy decision, and there isn't a lot out there. SGI has one and their storage business needs a boost...So it is a good question."

In the meantime, Kenniston feels the more appropriate competitive comparison with SAN File System might be between IBM and VERITAS, which he says is the leading file system across all platforms. EMC's Steinhardt agrees that his company does not seem to be a competitive target with the SAN File System.

Scott Gready Director, Storage Software Technical Office, HP Network Storage Solutions, also questions what problems IBM was trying to address with the SAN File System.

"SAN changes have really gained mainstream acceptance as a way to deploy storage," Gready told internetnews.com. "What customers are interested in is how can I deploy SANs in as simple a way as possible. When you create a product, you need to ask the customer: 'What do you want your SAN to do? Do you want the SAN to reliably deliver storage capacity, and do you want to put a lot of array controllers on a network to get lot of flexibility, or do you want just a simple array controller?' Customers don't want SANs to manage their files — they rely on an OS (operating system) to do that."

Accordingly, Gready said, OS vendors consider the file system to be their domain. They require a lot of new components that have to be OS-specific, such as a host agent, installable file system, or meta data server, he said. As a result, "I think the OS vendors are the real ones IBM will be competing with here."

"We don't have customers asking for a SAN to manage files," Gready said. "Customers are worried about how to manage their data in view of compliance regulations — HIPAA, etc. If the problem IBM is trying to solve is file sharing, then NAS has come a long way in terms of becoming a cost-effective file solution. It's become the industry standard mechanism, so you don't have to install proprietary file systems on every server."

Forrester Research analyst Anders Lofgren sees the value in the SAN File System, but he isn't so sure customers will be willing to migrate to the IBM architecture.

"The answer to that depends on where customers are — how far along into SAN deployment they are," Lofgren told internetnews.com "New customers may not need it. I think this will be most attractive to customers who have a number of SANs and want to combine them. They have designed this SAN so you don't have to rip-and-replace infrastructure, which is key. You can install it along existing file systems and move application data over into it to use existing assets."

Lofgren said the question then extends to the long term: "Where is it going? How does the file system they replaced with IBM interact with applications? Can they quantify that with hard numbers? This is definitely a new concept — it aims to meet the challenge in describing and demonstrating quantifiable data."

Lofgren added that while he doesn't believe competitors will answer the problem with the same approach, he knows SAN File System is not for everybody. Instead, he sees virtualization picking up at a much faster clip. "It's just much more approachable to the end user than a global file system."

One thing's for sure, vendors and analysts alike are clearly interested in seeing how the first fruit of Storage Tank fares on the warpath.

Story courtesy of internetnews.com.

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