The emergence and adoption of specialized NAS appliances over the past decade has dramatically reduced storage costs and evolved the NAS market well beyond using mainly general purpose servers to store files, unstructured data and certain NAS-friendly databases. For years, this market remained highly distributed and often isolated from the management dictates of the data center. As a result, in these file-oriented storage environments, customers did not demand the same levels of consolidation, availability, performance and business continuance functionality as in block-based worlds dominated by SAN. This led to an attitude within storage administration groups that the value of data residing on block-based systems greatly exceeded the value of data stored on file-oriented infrastructure.
This is changing. With the rapid growth of unstructured data within organizations, initiatives like email archiving, ediscovery and compliance often feature NAS or file-oriented storage as a critical component of storage infrastructure. Combined with the phenomenal success of Network Appliance, fierce interest and competition from EMC and the advancement of more robust technologies, NAS is becoming an imperative for both buyers and suppliers. Recently, we've seen a spate of moves by leading companies like IBM, Hitachi and HP to shore up NAS strategies and compete or partner with upstarts like BlueArc. Suddenly, NAS is where all the action is and unstructured data is getting more attention as organizations exploit big NAS for consolidation, higher performance and applications requiring higher availability and resiliancy.
Action Item: Organizations should stop using artificial distinctions such as file-oriented versus block-based biases to define the value of data. Users should not assume that data stored on NAS is less important than data stored on block-based (e.g. SAN) systems. Rather, organizations should bring file-oriented storage under the umbrella of IT management and aggressively exploit big NAS technologies such as virtualization that enable consolidation and robust business continuance consistent with today's information storage requirements.