IBM hopes that the System Storage N series Virtual File Manager™ (VFM, OEMed from NetApp) will bring the same success for file-based storage as the SAN Volume Controller (SVC) has for block-based storage. The key is to consolidate file systems virtually into on a global namespace. However, instead of doing this within one large filer (as BlueArc does), IBM uses an external appliance that provides this across all connected filers. IBM is hoping that by providing a low entry point and demonstrating the ability to solve change, migration and file data sharing problems, they can emulate the SVC success.
File-based storage is the last bastion of storage consolidation. It is generally very distributed, with different departments using a range of filer products. Similar appliance solutions are already available (e.g., F5 Acopia), with much higher function. IBM will have to work hard to repeat success.
Action Item: Users need to put in place organizational mechanisms for implementing standards and sharing the costs of file-based virtualization. This is a prerequisite for being able to persuade users to adopt this approach and achieve an overall reduction in the costs of managing, moving and sharing files.