Is FAN the answer to strategic storage problems?

News Analysis

Is FAN the answer to strategic storage problems?

IT departments are unable to generate coherent file management strategies because there are too many overlapping storage technologies and solutions.

That’s the view of Acopia, a storage networking vendor, which this week set out a roadmap to embrace file area networking (FAN) technologies.

FAN is a concept that aims to provide a common reference framework for all file-related technologies. It promises huge improvements in management efficiency, access to data and business agility. The linchpin of FAN is the abstraction of the file and its value from the physical devices on which the file resides into a standard meta information format, which makes all data types visible and manageable across the enterprise.

Acopia – which has clients for its NAS virtualisation devices that include Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Time Warner, Yahoo, Toshiba and Raytheon – aims to build such global information management capabilities into its products by 2008.

The technology is seen as a successor to the changes that took place in the 1990s when storage area networks (SAN) became a popular way to deal with rapid data growth by virtualising the physical connections between servers and storage devices. Proponents of FAN see the challenge now as one of managing file-based information rather than raw blocks.

Dave Russell, research vice-president with analyst house, Gartner, said: “Files are very different to blocks – they have a business context. In other words, the metadata can be used to apply policies to the file – for instance how long to keep data, where to store it, when to shred it, etc. This view of metadata can only be accomplished with an approach that is file-aware, such as a FAN, which can provide great value to customers.”

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