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chefwong

NAS Storage Serves vs. a Server ?

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I haven't done a true apples2apples comparison, but what is the MAJOR differences between a NAS device vs. a server ? I'm looking at either the Dell or HP Storageworks (NAS devices) and their pricepoints are along the lines of a server . While I haven't truly compare specs (SATA/SCSI, xeons vs. P4Cel), etc......I'm just curious to see what you're feedback is.

I'm looking to spend around $2,500 for a good mix of reliability / storage amount. As far as setup, I may just stick with a Raid 5 Setup. It will just mainly be used to house my image files as I am moving from traditional film to digital photography.

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Both are computers with an OS, but servers are mostly administered by a dedicated keyboard/monitor (you can go 'headless' after) while the NAS is intended more as a plug'n play appliance and is typically administered remotely.

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what is the MAJOR differences between a NAS device vs. a server

To put it simply, a server is a server.... a computer like any other, except that it is dedicated to serving. A NAS device is a device.... like many other devices that you may find on your network.

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"NAS device" is probably just a computer running cheap hardware and stripped-down W2k server. Or linux, or BSD. Just with some web-frontend or windows management frontend that will try to hide the OS and apps it's actually running.

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One of the main differences, is that most "brand" NAS's have inbuilt clustering support out-of-the-box, and should provide for every file-serving protocol on the planet, ie SMB, NFS, AFS, etc.

Typically you buy a NAS, (which is normally a simple 1U server with 2 drives in RAID1, to hold the OS), and using another DAS* box provide the space for adding a heap of drives.

Need more storage later on? Simply add another NAS box (connected to another DAS box), add it to the first one's cluster and you just dynamically increased the size of the file server with very little pain or hassle.

Question, will you use this functionality? IMHO most people won't. A simple 3U server, with a bunch of drives (10+) performs that same role just as good as most NAS boxes out there.

*DAS - Direct Attached Storage. Think of it as a large external case, that is designed to hold multiple devices. You connect the DAS box to your SCSI card via the external connector on the SCSI card.

PS. I don't think clustering is the right word to describe it, but essentially you just adding boxes with storage to a virtual server to make a larger capacity virtual server, which is what everyone is accessing. How this is done is AFAIK particular to the brand of NAS box your buying.

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NAS seems like a waste of money to me. If your running Linux you can get another copy of the OS for free, if you're running Win2003 most likely you licence by connecting device so adding another server adds no additional cost.

Direct Attached Storage, either within the 3-6RU or connected via external SCSI port to an external case will be faster than using a Gig-E connected NAS (especially if you're not using jumbo packets on your network) and you don't need to dedicate another port on your switch.

Adding more disks to a well designed RAID array is no harder than daisy chaining NAS units.

Finally if you decide you need to run another application somewhere if you bought a server instead of a NAS at least you have the option.

I've yet to hear a convincing argument for either NAS or SAN. But there must be one (because they're gaining in popularity) so if anyone can enlighten me please do.

Regards,

Michael.

P.S. Head Office's SAN (that was storing the data from most servers on a single SAN array) recently died and they lost all data from 4 24*7 Systems. Much down time and an enormous amount of work to rebuild everything.

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"NAS device" is probably just a computer running cheap hardware and stripped-down W2k server. Or linux, or BSD. Just with some web-frontend or windows management frontend that will try to hide the OS and apps it's actually running.

I suppose that you could call my router a scaled-up Palm Pilot running Linux. But it's not quite the same thing.

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Depending router, I could indeed call it a "computer" instead of "device". NAS devices typically expose so much of the operating system that I rather call them "computers" than "devices". Yes, they may be used without considering them as servers as such, but they often have several of the failings a server built using standard PC parts and operating systems have that I don't like thinking of them as standalone devices.

They tie to your network via eg. active directory to get user and group permissions and quotas and pretty much act just like a server built only to share diskspace would. And the server could be built cheaper, with more reliable parts, and later moved to serve other purposes should it's diskspace sharing become unnecessary for any reason.

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I think a NAS device, would have better bandwidth, better overall performance than a general purpose server, that has been tasked to be a fileserver...

What I mean is that, most servers are based on a general purpose computer of some sort. with a general - or multi purpose OS on top of it. You've heard to saying "jack of all trades - master of none"?

I think a NAS device would blow the doors off of a comparably priced server. The NAS device is doing what it was specificly designed to do. The server is only doing a task that it happens to be able to do.

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Actually from what I've seen, NAS devices tend to be general purpose computers running stripped-down general purpose OS, priced through the roof :rolleyes:

One could easily build a better NAS device at same price by choosing components carefully and installing some OS with only network disk sharing services running.

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In my experience, the following is true:

1) Use DAS when hardware is relatively expensive but the time of knowledgeable people is not, OR when you have an architecture where the physical disk locations and interconnects could be important (some hot standby and failover software used to require this).

2) Use NAS when the cost of hardware is less important that the cost of knowledgeable people to design and implement it - this often occurs when you have to hire consultants to do the work, or you have outsourced IT services.

3) Use a SAN when you need to hide the inner workings of a large amount of storage architecture (including huge amounts of disks, many shared tape libraries, on-line backups, etc.) from a number of servers in a dedicated environment. In short, when you have to abstract the inner workings because it just makes the whole thing easier to deal with.

Future Shock

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