Unified block and file storage has received another fillip, as 3PAR and Exanet have got together to layer Exanet's clustered NAS head onto 3PAR's InServ block array.
Exanet provides its ExaStor Clustered NAS (Network-attached Storage) Servers to serve files to servers in a scaleable way, presenting a single virtual file system across the cluster. It competes in a market characterisable as high-performance file computing - served by suppliers such as BlueArc, Isilon and HP - with its ExDS9100 product.
3PAR has left file storage well alone. It concentrates instead on block access to disk capacity, selling its virtualised, thinly-provisioned, scaleable and very easy to manage InServ arrays into enterprise data centres and service providers.
The idea is to combine the two products with certified interoperability and a joint support agreement, so that customers can be served blocks and files from the same pool of virtualised storage, with savings both on disk resources and resource management.
Other enterprise storage suppliers such as NetApp and EMC have, or are, embracing unified storage internally. Hitachi Data Systems is doing so via an investment and partnership with BlueArc.
Brandon Mason, VP of Technology at AudienceScience, a joint 3PAR and Exanet customer, said the product set: "has improved our overall performance while decreasing the physical drives and associated storage footprint by 60 per cent. (With it) we are able to leverage the same physical spindles to support both NFS and FC (Fibre Channel block) protocols simultaneously and efficiently." These are the benefits in a nutshell.
The NAS heads can scale independently of the InServ storage, which is good. The suppliers stress that the two products can scale performance together, in a linear and non-disruptive fashion, from two to eight nodes. However you can't buy the products as a single entity: the InServe and ExaStor components have to be bought from the two suppliers or their partners separately.
Incidentally indications are getting stronger that 3PAR has an interesting announcement coming in the next month or three. ®