Managing network files is an ongoing annoyance for IT administrators. With unstructured data making up the vast bulk of files found on corporate networks, organizing that data, archiving stale files, limiting data duplication, and making sure the data remains available to users as they need it can be an incredibly resource-intensive task that never ends.

Attune Systems attempts to solve this problem with their Maestro file virtualization appliance platform: Maestro File Manager FM6100. Now in its second generation, released last week, the new Maestro File Manager FM6100 is targeted at the needs of medium-size enterprise customers.

The Maestro appliance isn’t a storage provider. Rather, it provides network file virtualization for storage devices (e.g., file servers, NAS) already present on your network. It does this by aggregating your storage into a virtual namespace so that it appears as a directory tree under the Maestro managed share available to your users, regardless of the physical location of the storage. The device allows data to be organized on the file level, not the directory level found in most distributed namespace applications, such as the DFS namespace that Windows Server 2003 R2 supports natively.

The product is designed to optimize work in a multi-tier storage environment, where high-performance, high-cost storage is supplemented by less expensive second-tier storage that can be utilized to keep little-used data online and available without sucking up space on more expensive devices. Policy-based storage management lets the Maestro File Manager FM6100 organize data in the way that the storage administrator feels is most suitable. Stale files can be moved to different locations based on policy configurations; files added to the managed storage can be handled in the same policy fashion.

The Maestro File Manager FM6100 automates the discovery of network storage resources and lets the administrator add them to the virtual namespace as necessary. Like any virtual namespace, this process insulates the end user from changes made to the location of the files being virtualized, allowing the physical storage to be modified (increased, decreased, moved) without affecting the user workflow. Adding discovered storage to the Maestro File Manager FM6100’s virtual namespace lets the device provide a single point of management for existing storage resources. This means that the storage administrator can analyze and monitor storage resources, generate reports as necessary, and keep an eye out for common storage problems, such as overutilized and underutilized filers.

Attune built the appliance on off-the-shelf hardware technology. The company is a Microsoft partner and uses Windows Server components. This gives them native support for the Common Internet File System (CIFS) environment that Microsoft uses, where as much as 90 percent of the unstructured data found in the business computing environment resides.

File virtualization is an important part of a comprehensive Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) infrastructure for your business. At an entry point of just under $30,000 the Maestro File Manager FM6100 gives medium-size enterprise customers a relatively inexpensive way to introduce the technology of file virtualization to their enterprise. Because the Maestro File Manager FM6100 virtual namespace can be rolled out slowly and transparently to the end user, IT administrators can evaluate the effect that this technology will have on the environment without committing any infrastructure changes or modifying their business workflow.