A large percentage of corporate data is in the form of file.  Today roughly 80% of corporate networks data is unstructured.  Also the forecasted growth of unstructured data is significantly higher than structured data.  This means that file management is becoming a growing problem.  This problem is compounded by the reality of implementing concepts like Information Lifecycle Management.  This has created the need for new ways to do file management and this is what File Area Networks (FANs) is all about.  While I am not a big fan of the name FAN, I love the concept and the structure of what a FAN can be and how it can simplify customer’s file management headaches but the name FAN is too close to the SAN phraseology.   The name FAN was coined by the same folks (the Taneja Group) who created the Wide Area File Service (WAFS) name a few years ago and not surprisingly the concept of WAFS can be integrated in FAN. 

A FAN essentially enhances the standard network infrastructure (typically a pre-existing IP network) with the addition of technologies that provide centralized, heterogeneous and enterprise wide network file management and control.   Another important aspect of FAN is the ability to de-couple the logical file access from the physical file locations.  Why is this of interest to anybody outside the storage geek community?  Very simple…$$$, as FAN concepts get deployed, customers have been shown (see this article) to save money and ease their file management problems.  The Windows platform provides many of the basic FAN services like: global namespace, load balancing, replication and migration and as such Windows file serving customers have the right tools to deploy FANs in their environments and further enhanced the ROI they get from their platform’s investments.  FAN concepts are emerging and everything indicates that they will be able to help IT administrators to cope with the deluge of unstructured data taking space in the precious corporate storage resources.  Stay tuned and learn more about FANs as they may be a key element to simplify your file storage management and capacity issues.

Claude Lorenson