IBM announces massive NAS array for the cloud

IBM announced an enterprise -class network attached storage (NAS) array today that is capable of scaling to 14 petabytes under a single name space.

The array, called SONAS (Scale Out Network Attached Storage), is targeted at mid- and large-size enterprises. The rack-sized array is built in part on hardware and software developed for IBM's supercomputing systems.

IBM said the system can offer enterprises access to billions of files in support of cloud computing architectures. "IBM SONAS addresses one of the key promises of Cloud computing, which is to provide access to information anywhere at any time," the company said in a statement.

"SONAS will allow an organization to snap-in resources seamlessly as information requirements increase, but it also provides the capability to scan up to a billion files of data in a matter a matter of minutes," the company said.

Terri McClure, an analyst with market research firm Enterprise Strategy Group, said there has been continued interest in commodity-based scale-out platforms in the data center that is driven by the long-term aftershocks of the economic slowdown .

McClure compared SONAS with Hewlett Packard's X9720 clustered file system , as well as clustered NAS systems from Isilon Systems Inc. and Panasas Inc .

Clustered storage systems provide massive throughput because of an increased port count that comes from cobbling many storage servers together into a single pool of disks and processors, all working on a similar task and all able to share the same data through a single global name space.

Earlier this week, Dell said it had placed a bid to purchase clustered NAS vendor Exanet.

"Scale-out architectures bring a lot of operational efficiency to the table," McClure said. "With 2009 spending slowing to a near stop, scale-out interest mostly stayed just that: interest. In 2010, ESG expects that interest to translate into actual spending, aided by increased visibility from big-name vendors like EMC , HDS, HP , IBM, and NetApp as they continue to invest in scale-out offerings and validate commodity-based scale-out architectures for enterprise applications."

David Hill, an analyst with industry research firm the Mesabi Group, said in a research note that "IBM saw the need for a higher-end solution."

"In IBM's view, classical NAS is general purpose file storage that only allows capacity expansion behind one or two node clusters, making it most appropriate for the small to midrange market. Scalable NAS is the next step up," Hill said. "While it uses a single namespace to view all files, scalable NAS may well support limited node clustering for performance and capacity expansion, though its scaling is not necessarily linear or independent."

IBM said its SONAS array offers automated data tiering, meaning data can migrate between different disk drive types for higher or lower levels of performance based on preset policies.

"Every day, the equivalent of eight-times the information that exists in all US libraries combined is created," Doug Balog, vice president of disk systems for IBM, said in a statement. "Companies not only need to cost-effectively store that data, but they need to rapidly locate it and provide ubiquitous access to it instantly."

IBM said its policy-driven automation software for storage management can achieve increased utilization rates in file management systems, allowing a company to pre-define where data is placed, when it is created, where and when it moves to in the storage hierarchy, where it's copied for disaster recovery, and when it will be eventually deleted.

The company also said SONAS should reduce operational costs by consolidating hardware to reduce capital costs. "It also minimizes ongoing administration and headcount costs and decreases operational expenditures by streamlining and simplifying the administration, backup, application and access to data," IBM said.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld . Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is .

Read more about nas in Computerworld's NAS Knowledge Center.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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