I am frequently asked what the difference is between Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Storage Area Networks (SANs). Often seen as mutually exclusive technologies, NAS and SAN actually complement each other to solve the storage needs of the typical IT environment. NAS is optimized for file serving, whereas SANs are optimized for high-volume block-oriented data transfers typically associated with databases and application server data.

At the Hewlett-Packard (HP) & Microsoft Network Storage Solutions Road Show, I demonstrate a file- and application-server consolidation by migrating files and Exchange mail stores from Windows NT 4.0 and Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5 to Windows 2000 and Exchange Server 2000. Windows Powered NAS (WPNAS) devices are optimized Win2K file servers, so consolidating files from an NT server to a WPNAS device is easy. However, WPNAS doesn't support Exchange 2000 files. Microsoft recommends using a SAN to store Exchange data.

You can integrate SAN and NAS in several ways. One way is to use your own general purpose Windows server--include services for UNIX, Novell NetWare, and Macintosh as needed--then add a Fibre Channel host bus adapter (HBA) and tweak it to make it work. Another way is to buy a preconfigured NAS head that works with the SAN you already own. This is a turnkey solution and provides the necessary integration and support for your storage environment.

If you plan to buy a new SAN, purchase a SAN/NAS combo box. The fusion of SAN and NAS provides the best of both worlds--NAS for optimized file serving and SAN for optimized application data storage. The HP StorageWorks NAS b3000 storage device provides both SAN and WPNAS in a single cabinet. With an entry-level price of $25,000, the b3000 provides an efficient way to consolidate all of your storage. After working with these solutions for several months, I highly recommend a SAN/NAS fusion storage solution to anyone considering a storage consolidation project. Remember that Exchange 2000 doesn't run on the storage device but requires a separate application server. However, you can store all file-server and Exchange data on the SAN/NAS combination device, which is very convenient and easy to manage.

I've gained a wealth of experience with some of these innovative storage solutions during the road show. To find a listing of road show locations and dates, go to http://www.winnetmag.com/roadshows/nas.