NAS devices are basically bare-bones designed for the sole purpose of storing, sending and receiving data files. While they may not function well in database applications due to their inherent file orientation, NAS can free up expensive application servers and handle simple file storage. Your server functions as a gateway to the NAS device, the sole function of which revolves around data storage and delivery. This significantly alleviates the day-to-day connectivity bottlenecks that IS managers must deal with. There are a number of new storage and processing devices available to meet almost any need. As with any technology purchase, attention must be given to fit the tool to the required job. With bundled operating systems and practical plug and play upgrade functions, NAS will certainly continue to play a role.
In time, SANs will end up being at the heart of every data center. They will allow companies to manage their data storage requirements from a centralized point, providing information to various servers that may be running any number of operating systems. At the present time however, there are some shortcomings to SANs, namely a lack of manageability, fault tolerance limitations and truly specialized applications for SANs. SAN technology provides an improvement over SCSI interconnects with increased bandwidth capabilities and network architecture and interconnect flexibility. Thanks to fiber channel hub connections, SAN can bind a variety of hardware products and storage devices together in a LAN or WAN infrastructure.
This latest technological advancement should be viewed for the time being with cautious optimism. One concern is the void in software and hardware components designed to optimize SAN potential. This, coupled with interoperability with legacy systems and storage devices, should give one a reason to pause. But we should soon begin seeing Fiber Channel/SCSI bridge products in the market place to help ease the shift to SAN architecture and fill the present need. While SANs offer potentially the most efficient and flexible future solution to network design, NAS is totally operational and can provide a viable solution for many organizations right now.
The technology market is maturing before our eyes. The debate over mainframe, server or desktop system is quickly disappearing as the reality of specific network configurations and benefits become clear. Invariably, the IS department of the future will contain some or all of the above listed arrangements depending solely upon application. A blend of available technologies and network architectures will be used across the board to answer specific needs. The demand for increased data storage overall continues to grow at exponential rates. The need to identify and segment critical information for backup and recovery purposes is becoming even more important and must be considered by contingency planners and disaster recovery professionals when considering future Disaster Recovery plans.
It is important to note that solutions and technology jumps in computers and communications are occurring at phenomenally increasing speeds, with 6 months equaling what used to be 3 to 5 years—and it is escalating daily. For this reason, it is imperative that contingency planners, disaster recovery and risk managers be prepared to implement new technologies to help mitigate the built-in dependence on previous computer technology and the inherent risk that lies therein. With the lowering of hardware and communications costs, together with increased security, bandwidth expansion, channel extension technology coupled with the reliability of high speed fiber connections, remote mirroring and electronic data vaulting are viable solutions in the NAS and SAN network architecture world of the coming years.
Although both hardware and software are becoming more specialized and application dependent, it has become imperative that management throughout an organization be technologically savvy. Management must be aware how new technology in these areas can impact and help their specific area of responsibility. With the proliferation and implementation of fiber connects throughout network architecture Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), with Virtual Wide Area Networks (VWAN), connectivity is just around the corner. The disaster recovery planning process for the coming millennium must realize this reality and incorporate it as soon as possible if it is to succeed.
G.J. Pierman is the COO of TiTAN World Class Safe Site, the worlds premier safe site for sophisticated data storage, vaulting, Y2K testing, disaster recovery and advanced telecommunications networking.