The new technology is the first to eliminate the physical boundary between a SAN and network attached storage (NAS) that has traditionally been bridged using a gateway device, such as an NAS engine or "head" that uses a separate operating system.
The company has introduced Fabric Attached Storage (FAS) series file servers - the 1.8GHz FAS940 and 2.0GHz FAS960 models - that scale from 8TByte to 32TByte of capacity. The new models have a 25% performance increase over NetApp's older-model F880 and reduce data transfer times by a third.
Dave Hitz, Network Appliance's founder and executive vice-president of engineering, said his company was responding to customer demand for SANs.
"From a technical perspective, the best thing is to install an Oracle database using NFS going over NAS. And then, if you decide to, you can tell your systems I'd like to take this exact same data, convert it to a logical unit number and run it on Fibre Channel for while," Hitz said.
Prices for the arrays, with management software, range between $150,000 (£95,545) and $1m (£0.6m) and vary based on capacity and software systems, Hitz said. The FAS900 series will scale to 48TByte and include native SCSI over IP connectivity (iSCSI) by the middle of next year.
Hitz said that SAN technology has opened up new partnerships for Network Appliance, including reseller agreements with storage vendors such as switch makers McData and Brocade Communications Systems, and storage software companies Veritas Software and IBM's Tivoli.
Network Appliance's latest version of Data OnTap 6.3 software can simultaneously manage NAS volumes and SAN LUNs to serve up block-level data across Fibre Channel networks and take snapshots of LUNs on the FAS960 and FAS940.
Hitz said that having the same operating system across all three lines of storage devices - file servers, NearStore array and NetCache server - allows users to achieve true modularity and a single interface.
"The number one advantage to our approach is simplicity," Hitz said. "The vast majority of applications can go either way."