Network Appliance ships new OS

Network Appliance officials started shipping the latest release of their storage operating system this week, and they expect the system to address two pressing challenges facing customers: burdensome system administrative tasks and poor utilization of disk capacity.

The new software, called Data ONTAP 7G, can be used across Network Appliance's entire line of products, from small network-attached storage appliances used to store departmental files to gateways that serve as the front end to enormous enterprise-class disk arrays.

One of the primary features in the 7G release is FlexVol. It is designed to help storage administrators easily create and, more importantly, resize virtual pools of storage capacity. With virtualization, storage volumes are set up in software and not tied to specific disks or hardware systems.

One of the problems administrators have traditionally faced when setting up storage hardware is that space allocated in a volume for certain applications could not be adjusted easily if needs changed. Typically, this problem led staff to overallocate resources upfront to leave sufficient space for future and unanticipated growth.

"It is very complex [using current solutions] to reclaim space once allocated to an application, and then it ends up being unusable because the application hasn't grown as fast as you thought it might," said Suresh Vasudevan, vice president of product marketing at Network Appliance. "As a result, disk utilization rates run in the 30 [percent] to 50 percent range."

With FlexVol, administrators will be able to shrink or expand volumes and add new disk capacity without disrupting access to existing stored data. In addition to reducing administrative tasks associated with allocating storage, it should allow customers to double their disk utilization rates, according to Network Appliance officials.

The new software and its virtualization capabilities will work with new or older Net App storage systems, Vasudevan said. It will also work with selected disk systems from Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM and Sun Microsystems when access to those vendors systems is provided through Net App's gFiler storage gateway device.

In a related announcement this week, Net App officials said that a new version of the gFiler now supports Fibre Channel, a new connectivity option for the product. This means that the gateways can be connected directly to a storage-area network.

Pricing information for the new products is available from the company and its sales partners upon request.


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