IBM Offers Scaled-Down NAS Gateway

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For small businesses that need a disaster recovery plan, only without the hefty price tag, choices can be skimpy. IBM is out to change that with a scaled-down version of its network-attached storage (NAS) gateway system.

Big Blue said it plans to offer TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500 with one-way processor configuration in order to provide a low-cost entry for customers in NAS environments with less-demanding performance requirements. The starting price on the systems works out to be about 40 percent less than the usual $60,000 price tag, an IBM official said.

The SMB version comes about half a year after IBM introduced its NAS gateway system, a clustered engine configuration with up to eight POWER4+ microprocessors. Now, the system is scaling down for smaller businesses that can’t afford the cost associated with providing a hot backup of every aspect of its network.

The TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500 configuration currently uses a single POWER4+-based microprocessor, as well as provides for a rollover in case of an outage of its current network. David Vaughn, IBM’s worldwide product manager for NAS, said the SMB configuration lets customers start with a single processor version of the NAS Gateway 500 and, depending on their growth needs, later scale up to two, four or eight processors.

The one-processor version also offers all the same features without impacting the customer’s footprint: processor, memory, adapters Ethernet and Fibre Channel, redundancy with engine clustering and operating system mirroring, and data mirroring over both IP and SAN networks.

“The new offering also includes new support for three modes of mirroring over IP networks,” Vaughn added, such as asynchronous, synchronous mode and Mirror Write Consistency (MWC).

For example, Vaughn continued, MWC works by writing data to the local disk at the same time it is sent across to the remote site. “The write is not complete until the remote site acknowledges that the write is complete, which is considered a faster mode than synchronous and more data-reliable than asynchronous,” Vaughn said.

Big Blue said the TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500 offers the same features as the four-way processors: tightly integrated hardware and software that links storage area networks with the users who need access to that data over IP networks.

The idea with the gateway is to provide fast and reliable access while maximizing the use of customers’ current storage hardware arrays. Officials said the idea is to help customers reduce the islands of new storage systems that can require greater levels of administration and support.

“If I’m a large enterprise, I want a two-processor model so that if one fails, I have a backup to go to,” said Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner with research firm Data Mobility Group. “But if I’m an SMB, I need something that’s a little more affordable. I could put [a one-processor system] in my main data center and one in my remote office. It’s another way to provide disaster recovery for SMBs. By putting one in a remote office, that would allow me to ship files to the remote office and remotely replicate between these two boxes.” Plus, she added, the system comes with software built in to help admins remotely manage the data.

IBM said the lower-cost, near-line storage system also provides enhanced support for Windows environments, including Windows 2003. It features support for EtherChannel and IEEE 802.3ad Link Aggregation in environments where two NAS Gateway 500s are clustered.

“The NAS Gateway can now be configured to place service calls over a TCP/IP connection or over an analog phone line using a modem,” IBM’s Vaughn said.

Other enhanced features allow users to track, manage and restore individual snapshot files.

The idea, IBM said, is to give smaller customers the best of both storage worlds by combining the performance and availability of SANs , with the speed and manageability of NAS.

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