1. Acopia White Paper
File Virtualization with the
Many enterprises today face the challenge of managing and storing an
ever-increasing amount of information. Not only is information being
created at an unprecedented pace, but regulatory and business needs
are requiring the preservation of information for longer periods of time.
At the same time Information Technology (IT) departments are being
forced to do more with less – as storage capacity requirements have
grown, IT budgets have shrunk or remained flat. This poses a paradox:
while new storage devices are added to meet capacity demands, the
2 ......File Storage Challenges addition of each new device brings additional complexity and a
2 ......Acopia’s ARX File corresponding escalation in operational costs. Each new piece of
Virtualization Products storage is a discrete element that has to be managed, and its addition
4 ......Large Workspace is often a disruptive and time-consuming process. In short, scaling
4 ......Increased Performance capacity results in escalating complexity which stresses the already
stretched resources of most IT departments. Acopia’s file virtualization
5 ......Data Migration
resolves this dilemma in a simple and effective manner. This white
5 ......Tiered Storage
paper introduces Acopia’s innovative file virtualization technology, and
6 ......Disaster Recovery
discusses the applications and benefits of this solution.
7 ......Centralized Backup
2. File Virtualization with the Acopia ARX
FILE STORAGE CHALLENGES
Today's enterprises face a number of file storage challenges:
Device-centric management. NAS devices and file servers are managed as discrete entities,
resulting in "islands of storage". There is no unified view of storage, making management com-
plex. Clients and applications are forced to access multiple storage islands explicitly and any
modifications, for example storage provisioning or data migration, cause downtime and reconfig-
uration of clients and applications. In addition, today's typical enterprise storage infrastructure is
a heterogeneous assortment of storage platforms, file systems and operating systems. Many
enterprises see unified management of, and access to, such an environment as unattainable today.
Limited scalability. Device-centric islands of storage are limited in their ability to scale in the
dimensions of performance and capacity. Even the most scalable devices are subject to device-
level limitations – they may be large islands, but they remain islands nonetheless. Enterprises are
encountering these device-level bottlenecks as the amount of data continues to multiply, and the
processing and throughput requirements of applications and business processes continue to
Inefficient utilization. There is little visibility into file storage usage across the enterprise today
because no unified view of storage exists. Typically excess capacity (in terms of storage, process-
ing and throughput) may exist across several islands of storage, but little to no ability to share
this excess capacity across islands exists today.
In order to realize the simplified management, scalability and utilization gains that storage man-
agers are seeking, the device-centric file storage infrastructure of today must evolve to an infra-
structure-centric one. Acopia's file virtualization devices offer an effective way to unify the many
disparate device-centric islands of storage into a scalable, flexible and manageable file storage
ACOPIA’S ARX FILE VIRTUALIZATION PRODUCTS
Acopia's ARX products add a "file-awareness" to the network which transforms the current
device-centric storage infrastructure into a unified infrastructure that is able to adapt to the
dynamic demands of users and applications. This enables enterprises to more efficiently access,
manage, and optimize file storage resources.
Acopia’s ARX devices logically reside in the data path between clients and application servers
and their associated file storage resources as shown in figure 1. From this unique vantage point,
Acopia’s ARX switches present a unified view of file storage – the Acopia Virtual Namespace.
Using NFS and CIFS industry standard protocols, the ARX is able to virtualize multiple shares
or exports from heterogeneous file servers and NAS devices. Instead of accessing file storage
resources through inflexible device-centric mount points, clients simply access file storage
resources through the unified virtual namespace presented by the ARX devices.
3. The Acopia Virtual Namespace decouples file storage clients from the physical devices housing
the data. This decoupling of clients from the physical locality of their data means that clients
are no longer affected by changes to the storage devices they access. Common storage manage-
ment tasks such as provisioning, consolidation and migration can be performed online without
requiring client reconfiguration.
Acopia's ARX products are purpose-built to be in-line devices, providing unprecedented levels
of scale as well as low latency and high speed switching operations. As a network device, the
Figure 1: Logical View of Acopia ARX File Virtualization
ARX does not require software agents or the implementation of an additional proprietary file
system. This allows organizations to realize the benefits of file virtualization without the cost
and complexity of modifying all their servers and/or clients, and without having to undergo a
forklift upgrade to a new system. Furthermore, as network devices Acopia's ARX switches
leverage the IP network to implement distributed data management policies that are file-aware
across the enterprise.
Acopia’s ARX products have several key applications and benefits:
• Overcoming the capacity and performance constraints of individual NAS devices
• Improved utilization of file storage resources
• Eliminating the disruption of data migration and storage consolidation
• Enabling tiered storage for efficient, cost-effective resource utilization
• Cost effective protection of data in regional sites and disaster recovery for central sites
© 2005 Acopia Networks, Inc. All rights reserved 3
4. File Virtualization with the Acopia ARX
Many enterprises struggle with demanding business applications which have capacity require-
ments that exceed the size of individual file systems. In order to provision additional capacity,
storage mangers have to stop the application, add capacity and update the application to access
the new storage. The process is complex, time consuming, and disruptive.
The Acopia ARX enables customers to create large workspaces comprised of multiple physical
file systems (potentially distributed across multiple devices) to meet their application require-
ments. Storage administrators have the flexibility to configure policies that dynamically balance
capacity across backend file systems in a large
Figure 2: Large Workspace & Load Distribution
workspace. This is done transparently to
clients and applications. In addition, as extra
capacity is needed it can be non-disruptively
added to the storage pool without incurring
application downtime or client reconfigura-
The ARX’s ability to create a large workspace
that exceeds the capacity of individual file sys-
tems can increase business process throughput
and reduce operational overhead by eliminat-
ing time-consuming storage provisioning tasks
and associated application downtime.
A number of enterprises today are experiencing per-
formance issues associated with the entire workload of “Immediately after deploying Acopia’s
critical business applications accessing a single NAS switches, we experienced remarkable
improvements in operational efficien-
device or file server. This often causes a bottleneck
cies. Acopia’s in-band adaptive
and slows down the business workflow.
resource switch provided real-time
balancing of load across our BlueArc
The Acopia ARX alleviates this bottleneck by distrib-
file servers, greatly increasing storage
uting application load across multiple physical file stor- scalability, while effectively utilizing all
age devices. This can significantly increase the of our available file storage capacity.”
throughput of the application, because the I/O can be
– Cliff Dutton, Executive Vice
load balanced across multiple physical devices. President and CTO, Ibis Consulting
The net benefit to customers is increased throughput
of critical business processes, which in many cases translates into real business value like
increased revenues, better customer service or faster time to market.
5. DATA MIGRATION
Many IT departments are confronted with data migration tasks and server consolidation proj-
ects that are disruptive, time consuming and require downtime.
The Acopia ARX is able to move data without affecting user access. Administrators can use
powerful policies for a range of data migration tasks – from moving entire file systems to indi-
vidual files. Data migration can take place between heterogeneous storage devices, and does not
require client reconfiguration. In addition, migra-
tions can be scheduled to avoid peak traffic times
or backup windows. "As a result of the Acopia implementation,
we have reduced overhead associated with
The ARX's automated data migration policies
storage management by 20%. Had the
enable storage administrators to rebalance storage
problem not been resolved, we also would
without incurring downtime or reconfiguring
have been forced to outsource this func-
clients. In addition, the ARX’s ability to seamlessly
migrate data between heterogeneous devices
allows enterprises to introduce new alternate file - IT Executive, Media & Entertainment
storage solutions, migrating data off old systems Company
while maintaining client access to the data.
Today many enterprises are seeking to introduce alternative technologies into their file storage
infrastructures. Some organizations wish to augment their high-end, high-cost storage with
more cost effective disk-based storage technologies like Serial ATA (S-ATA). These enterprises
can realize significant capital expenditure savings by moving non-critical business data off of
expensive storage resources (tier 1) to lower cost alternatives. Other organizations want to
introduce new high performance, high capacity file storage solutions that are better suited to
their applications or business processes. While the motivation is often compelling, the introduc-
tion of new file storage solutions is difficult to manage. Migrating data between systems is
manually intensive and disruptive – even between devices from the same vendor. Furthermore,
managing the data lifecycle over time has a high operational overhead associated with it.
The Acopia ARX addresses these challenges by automating the migration of data between dif-
ferent tiers of storage (potentially comprising devices from multiple vendors) in a non-disrup-
tive manner. Acopia's ARX products seamlessly migrate data based on age, type, and usage
between storage tiers. Administrators can schedule data migration to take place at appropriate
Not only does the ARX place data on the appropriate storage tier, but also manages this rela-
tionship over time. For example, a customer may choose to migrate data that hasn't been
accessed in the last 60 days off of high performance storage to a lower cost storage tier, or to
© 2005 Acopia Networks, Inc. All rights reserved 5
6. File Virtualization with the Acopia ARX
migrate a specific type of data requiring high performance to a storage tier comprised of high-
speed NAS devices.
These capabilities give enterprises the flexibility to use best of breed storage from multiple ven-
dors in deploying a tiered storage environment.
Figure 3: Tiered Storage with the ARX
Acopia's file virtualization technology provides the capability to create disk-based replicas of
file data to support data availability and disaster recovery. Administrators can define file sets to
be asynchronously replicated either locally or remotely across an IP network of Acopia switch-
es. Replication can occur at regularly scheduled intervals with full or only incremental copies
(file changes) being transmitted. Off-site replicas can be presented and accessed by the user in a
read-only fashion to ensure the availability of data, but these replicas can be quickly promoted
to a read/write state in the event of a data center failure.
Acopia's replication technology can greatly reduce the cost associated with file-based replication
solutions. Typically these solutions require storage from the same vendor at the source and des-
tination. In addition, these solutions often have high licensing fees associated with them.
However, because the Acopia replication technology is "vendor agnostic" enterprises are no
longer required to purchase high-priced homogeneous devices for secondary storage, or costly
software licenses. Acopia's replication technology also provides very specific classification of
data so that enterprises are not forced to replicate entire volumes or file systems. The Acopia
switch allows administrators to define explicit criteria about the types of data included in the
7. CENTRALIZED BACKUP
In order to reduce the cost and risk associated with decentralized backup approaches, many
enterprises today are consolidating their backup operations into central locations. In this way a
centralized backup infrastructure may be shared amongst multiple remote locations and tightly
administered by trained professionals.
The Acopia ARX's replication technology can play a significant role in centralized backup envi-
ronments. Acopia devices are able to replicate administrator-defined data sets back to a central
location for backup purposes as shown in figure 4. Advanced policies allow scheduling and rate
limiting of these replication tasks, as well as the ability to transfer only file changes thereby pre-
serving expensive WAN (Wide Area Network) bandwidth.
Figure 4: Centralized Backup with the Acopia ARX
With the Acopia ARX replication technology, enterprises can reduce capital expenditure by
selecting best-in-class storage devices and eliminating costly licensing fees. Administrators also
have the flexibility to greatly reduce the size of replications and backups by specifying at the
file-level the types of data that need to be backed up.
The file virtualization technology provided by Acopia's Adaptive Resource Switch (ARX) prod-
ucts offers a unique opportunity to solve the paradox of scaling capacity while reducing man-
agement complexity. By leveraging purpose-built switching hardware, the ARX transforms
today’s device-centric file storage environment into a scalable and manageable infrastructure
that can be manipulated without disruption to users and applications. In addition, Acopia's
ARX products enable new opportunities to reduce capital and operational expenditure through
non-disruptive storage management and tiering, as well as cost effective ways to protect data in
remote sites and provide disaster recovery solutions for central sites.
© 2005 Acopia Networks, Inc. All rights reserved 7
8. Acopia White Paper
For more information about Acopia Networks,
please visit us on the Web at www.acopia.com
or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
41 Wellman Street
Lowell, MA 01851
Acopia is a trademark of Acopia Networks. Other products and company names mentioned
herein may be trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective companies.
© 2005 Acopia Networks, Inc. All rights reserved.