Foundations of
Network Storage: Lesson 2 of 5.

In this lesson, we
will explore network attached storage (NAS): how to decide if NAS is best for
your organization, your choices regarding NAS, and what you need to support it
.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems connect directly to
your network, but that do not generally provide block level communication with
the host, making them unsuitable for most database and Exchange applications. A
NAS system is really a very large file server running its own operating system
and providing direct access to users. That is, users can directly access the
files on the NAS device just like they access files on a file server. Each
whole file is transferred between the NAS device and the requesting client.

NAS terminology

  • NAS head: This is the part of the NAS to which
    clients connect. Behind the NAS head may lay hundreds or thousands of gigabytes
    of available storage, but clients need to access this space via the NAS head.
  • NFS: NFS (Network File System) is one of the
    communications protocols usually supported by NAS heads for communication with
    network clients, particular those of the UNIX or Linux flavor, although NFS
    clients are available for just about any operating systems these days.
  • CIFS (the protocol formerly known as SMB [Server
    Message Block]): CIFS (Common Internet File System), the protocol primarily
    responsible for file sharing communication with Windows (and Linux-based Samba)
    servers is another commonly supported protocol in most NAS heads. CIFS/SMB is
    used for communication with the NAS head by most Windows clients. Both NFS and
    CIFS use TCP/IP for their underlying communication.

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Hardware and software needed to support NAS systems

One beauty of NAS systems is simplicity. If you have an
existing Ethernet (Fast or Gigabit are the best choices here) network you can
almost literally just pop a NAS head and storage on your network and be on your
way. In short, the only equipment you need to support a NAS system in your
environment is an Ethernet connection to the NAS head. For additional
reliability, you might want to configure your NAS hardware with multiple
connections, but at the end of the day, just typical Ethernet switch ports are
all you need for a NAS system to work.

On the software side, you might need an NFS client on your
Windows computers, or an SMB client (such as Samba) on your Linux computers to
access the NAS system. However, this is only true if you’re trying to access a
NAS device that does not include support for your client operating system.

For more on NAS, including free downloads, see page two.

NAS resources

White Papers

  • White
    Paper: File Fragmentation, SANs, NAS and RAID

    Does fragmentation affect SANs, NAS, and RAID? Many people think it
    doesn’t—but that perception is incorrect. This white paper from Diskeeper
    Corporation explains the technical issues concerning fragmentation, SANs,
    NAS, and RAID.
  • White
    Paper: Selecting the Right NAS Appliance for Your Workgroup LAN

    This article discusses the benefits of NAS and what to look for when
    researching an NAS appliance for your network.
  • NAS
    Gateways: The Evolution of New Datacenter Solutions

    While Network Attached Storage (NAS) has long been recognized as a
    cost-effective approach for fulfilling low-end storage requirements, its
    appropriateness for large enterprise and datacenter environments has been
    debated. However, recent developments in NAS technologies have altered the
    landscape of these solutions, extending their capabilities and flexibility
    while preserving their cost-effectiveness. As a result, some NAS solutions
    can play key roles for the highest-end enterprise storage users.

NAS Vendors

Course list

  • Lesson
    1: SAN
  • Lesson
    2: NAS
  • Lesson
    3: Fibre channel/iSCSI
  • Lesson
    4: Backup
  • Lesson
    5: What’s next?

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