Grid Computing Boost: NetApp Data OnTap 7G

Data Ontap 7G automatically expands and shrinks data volumes to accommodate realtime changes in storage demands, said Karthik Kannan, director of technology at NetApp, Sunnyvale, Calif.

"It's a great first step for NetApp's plan to bring grid computing and virtual computing to the market," said Merrill Likes, president of UpTime, an Edmond, Okla.-based solution provider. "It's not quite Spinnaker Solutions yet, but it's getting there," said Likes, referring to the heterogeneous storage clustering company NetApp acquired a year ago this month.

The software has two key new features to ease storage management, said Kannan. The first, FlexVol, adds a virtualization layer between storage devices and data volumes, breaking the traditional tie between the two in order to ease management and scalability, Kannan said. As a result, regardless of a data set's size, it is no longer tied to specific storage devices, letting storage capacity allocated to that data set expand or shrink dynamically.

"Growing RAID groups or volumes on the fly has been done," said Kannan. "But no one allows shrinking of capacity."

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The second feature, he said, is FlexClone, which allows multiple, independently writable data set clones to be created almost instantaneously using the same capacity as the original.

In a typical database environment, FlexClone allows data to be cloned from the test environment to beta to production with no wait and no wasted space, Kannan said. Also, clones can be created immediately for customers who need multiple replications of a database so different users have different views of the data, he said.

The new software will increase the utilization and life of NetApp Filer NAS appliances, said Likes."It may put off or delay sales of incremental storage for a week, a month, or six months," he said. "But it's good for customers and good for NetApp. And good for us in the long term."