NAS on the Edge — Companies Worth Watching in 2005

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NetApp has been king of enterprise network attached storage (NAS) for many years. In fact, the company basically invented the category. Despite its dominance in storage as a whole, EMC remains second in this field. Another player in the NAS space is SNAP Appliance (recently acquired by Adaptec). SNAP is essentially the volume mid-tier and low-end player.

This stable picture in the marketplace, however, may soon be upset due to the degree of innovation shown by several newcomers and up and comers. Let’s take a look at what’s new and what’s hot in NAS. Some of these names have been around for a while, while a host of other start-ups are hovering around the NAS periphery with a variety of products that could shake up the industry:

Isilon Systems Inc. of Seattle is delivering intelligent clustered network storage systems for digital content. Its solutions simplify the production, archiving, and delivery of large digital files such as audio, video, images, and research data sets.

“Isilon is kicking butt in the media market,” said Steve Duplessie, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group of Milford, MA. “In addition, BlueArc has reached critical mass and is selling lot’s of large scale systems.”

BlueArc Corp. of San Jose has a product that consolidates and manages up to 256 terabytes of data in a single storage pool.

Terrascale Technologies Inc. of Montreal has a NAS offering that improves the efficiency of compute and application clusters by removing I/O scalability constraints.

PolyServe Inc. of Beaverton, OR, has shared data clustering software that enables multiple Windows and Linux-based servers to function as a single, highly available system.

Boston NAS Party

High tech is supposed to be equated with Silicon Valley. Yet only one of the names above actually resides in that region. While the Pacific North West and Canada are well represented above, we have far more storage up and comers gravitating around the vicinity of Boston. Perhaps it is its rich revolutionary history that makes Massachusetts such a hot bed of NAS innovation.

Here are a few candidates to watch in 2005:

Katana Technology Inc. is making some interesting noises around true virtualization. This hush-hush Acton, MA, startup is beta-testing virtual multiprocessor technology using inexpensive PCs. The company is also about to change its name to VirtuOS Computing. Its software runs directly on the computer hardware beneath the operating system and can run a number of virtual machines on a single Linux server.

“The wildest company I’ve seen in a long time is Katana,” said Duplessie. “They will make the term ‘virtualization’ have real meaning, and have the potential to change the way IT runs in the future.”

But whether the excitement around Katana materializes or not, there are plenty of other fascinating candidates in New England. Ibrix Inc. of Billerica, MA, for example, offers a software-based system consisting of a global file system, volume manager, high-availability features, and a management interface that simplifies file system management. This company recently won some business with Dell.

Sanbolic Inc. of Watertown, MA, focuses on platform- and protocol-independent tools that simplify data storage management, increase system flexibility, and enable shared access to information.

Exagrid Systems Inc. of Westborough, MA, has a NAS product that automatically protects itself by backing itself up and providing integrated disaster recovery.

Acopia Networks Inc. of Lowell, MA, is another interesting startup that does high-end NAS switches.

Gateway to NAS Heaven

When it comes to NAS movers and shakers, don’t forget about NAS gateways. This technology will soon be impacting the traditional NAS market. EMC has Celerra running in front of Symmetrix, for example, and NetApp offers a gateway to HDS and HP systems.

Outside of the big two, there are several companies to watch in the NAS gateway arena. Perhaps the most impressive, though, is OnStor Inc. ( of Los Gatos, CA. Like NAS, OnStor serves data to Windows, Linux, and UNIX clients and servers on a LAN, but lets you choose the storage networking architecture you prefer.

“OnStor has built a pretty cool NAS gateway that lets users repurpose their disk arrays and turn them into NAS boxes, while Acopia is a red hot startup getting great traction in really big shops,” said Duplessie. “Gateways will eventually have a major impact on the traditional NAS market.”

Article courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet.

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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