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Behind the scenes in storage Disneyland

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"Now we'll have a unified name space over the whole file system and no one will have to hold (physical addresses)," Warmenhoven said. "This is not about scaling out for performance; it's scaling out for manageability. It's virtualisation of data locality... present the name of the object and we'll go and find the volume."

It's not that NetApp customers can't get this global name space feature already. Isilon for example offers it but that's outside the NetApp stockade. ONTAP 8 will bring it inside the fence.

It was 20 years ago today

Warmenhoven thinks storage is now at the stage networking was 20 years ago, when "you probably had purpose-built switches for Ethernet (and the other different interfaces). Along came the router and the different interfaces became line cards. The core of data management and data storage is not dissimilar to the router."

Just as a unified router dissolved the need for switches purpose-built for different network applications, so unified storage can dissolve the reasons for having different storage technologies for separate storage apps.

"We do believe that the right solution is to move away from purpose-built products for each storage application and move to a single model."

EMC's coming Celerra update embodies this approach - to an extent. It offers a NAS interface alongside its iSCSI and Fibre Channel SAN interfaces and it can deduplicate data and function as an archive. Thus it overlaps Symmetrix and Clariion arrays and Centera archive storage - but those other product lines won't go away.

Still, NetApp believes they should, that the same core product technology should operate within the various storage personalities, that you have your fairground ride, your enchanted castle, your canoe flume ride, all operating together and integrated.

It's all about continuity. Buy one NetApp product and get to know it. Buy another and it works and is managed pretty much the same way. Buy another and you don't have to learn much new at all as NetApp continuity wraps you inside its warm blanket. Filers or block access devices, primary storage or secondary storage - all just different personalities, skins around the same constant NetApp onion.

The continuity even extends to Warmenhoven's own future. He's starting his 15th year as NetApp CEO and says: "I'm older than the hills (he's 58) and I do not expect to be the CEO of this company when I'm 60... There's a point at which a new leader is needed." Tom Georgens, president and chief operating officer, is identified as the probable next CEO, "as long as he continues the executive leadership". Can you detect the whip held by the velvet glove there?

In fact, NetApp is even better than Disney World; it has a plan for what happens when the top man goes - which Disney didn't. ®

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