There are few times that I look at what a company markets as the 'Next big thing' in the storage world and get the same reaction I got when I started learning about the SONAS product. There is already some technical details in the announcement and in Tony's blog from a few days ago so I wont go into that today, but I will go over how this product really makes a paradigm shift in the NAS storage world.
Traditionally NAS storage is looked as the little brother to the bigger systems of SAN. SAN systems tend to be the athletes of the storage high school with their matching letter jackets and oversized girth. All the while, NAS was the band geeks, some frail and thin and some over sized but always in large numbers and not very organized. NAS technology was born from the need to share data over he company and as the amount of information grew so did the servers, network bandwidth and backups. SAN storage is still the big guy on campus but the people that track trends for our industry say NAS has become just as important as the large databases, ERP systems and the like.
If you look at how we have stored NAS data, it has been on single file systems that had local disk drives shared out over a single 10/100 mb network. As storage systems became more advanced, we saw people using clustering, snapshots, thin provision, de-duplication and replication to help keep our companies communicating. When we needed more throughput or more storage we added a server or added disks which created islands of unshared power.
If you look at 2009 and one of the hottest buzz words in the storage market, it was cloud computing. Having a large source of power in one area to pull resources from without having to provision new equipment. We also saw more and more clients looking at NAS protocols as the Ethernet could support faster speeds than traditional fibre channel. A huge amount of you have been looking at and moving your virtual environments to NFS to help cut down on administration overhead and to take advantage of the CNA technology.
With a higher demand for NAS technology, comes the burden of being able to scale at the same rate the storage, network and throughput increases. Older NAS systems allowed clients to increase the amount of storage but once you reach the critical mass the system allowed you had to purchase another clustered system. This creates multiple islands of storage pools that have be managed, provisioned and backed up. Not a great solution for companies that are growing and have fewer administrators to do the work.
Now, IBM has a product that allows our NAS clients to grow and scale as their companies grow. SONAS is a highly scable NAS that works like a cloud. The underlying technology, GPFS, is the same found in some of the fastest computers in the world. SONAS uses a method of scaling in both storage and throughput by adding storage pods (60 SATA or SAS disks) or interface modules (x3650 servers) like Lego blocks. All of this is managed by a central command module that allows a client to have full control over the entire system no matter how much storage or servers are in the system.
So the "Next big thing" in my opinion is here today and IBM is using the best of the best of IBM research for it's clients. The SONAS solution is designed from the ground up as a true blue NAS storage solution. Look for future SONAS blogs on GPFS, creating an ILM strategy and more.