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NetApp Nudges Closer to New OS

Posted by iMark - 2006-03-09

NetApp, which is about to unveil its long-awaited GX operating system, warned this week that it could be years before the new technology converges with its existing 7G OS.
GX, which will include elements of the Spinnaker technology NetApp acquired more than two years ago, will be demo'd at the vendor's analyst day next week, before initial deployment on NetApp's FAS 3000 devices.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Semiconductor and Systems Conference in Dana Point, California, this week, NetApp CFO Steve Gomo promised that it will be a long time before GX, which is aimed at data intensive applications such as seismic research, converges with 7G. "It could take years," he said, adding that, over time, the two products will eventually share more and more features.

For one potential user, ease of use is a far bigger worry than running two operating systems at the same time. Mark Mayo, systems coordinator at the Michael Smith Genome Research Center in Vancouver, British Columbia, who already uses NAS 3050 boxes, told Byte and Switch that his main concern is whether GX emulates the look and feel of 7G. "As long as they model the behavior, I don't think it's going to be a big deal, but if it behaves differently and unexpectedly I would be worried about that."

Ease of use, in particular, is Mayo's top priority: "7G is remarkably easy to use compared to some of NetApp's competitors. It's all going to come down to whether the new operating system feels like a filer."

Mayo says waiting years for the operating systems to converge is the least of his worries. "I would rather that NetApp took their time on it. There are two completely different code bases," he explained. "The main thing that I want in storage is stability."

At the Morgan Stanley Conference, Gomo promised users that they will be under no pressure to upgrade. "We're going to let the two [operating systems] run in parallel for some time so that customers can choose the point at which they want to convert," he explained. "We don't force it on them."

The NetApp exec also hinted that the underlying architectures of 7G and GX are very similar. "Both GX and the classic [7G] have the same DNA." Gomo went on to outline the new capabilities offered within GX, which include a global namespace, failure monitoring, and new configuration features.

These were warmly received up in Vancouver. "Global namespace is the big one," noted Mayo, adding that his IT department is crying out for the technology, which lets administrators share storage files across disparate systems. Because 7G lacks a global namespace, Mayo has often had to perform what he describes as a "data shuffle," constantly shifting data and reconfiguring his storage hardware.

Not surprisingly, Mayo is itching to get his hands on the new operating system. "We're a customer that has high performance needs and the promise from GX is that it lets you scale your performance up," he said. "7G is pretty good but we always need to go faster."

Back in California, Gomo also provided an update on NetApp's new high-end storage device code-named 'Excelsior.' "There are probably 30 to 50 customers or so that will be receiving this product in the short term," he said, with the "manufacturing ramp-up," coming next quarter.

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