Brocade's latest wheeze for storage networking is the FAN. You might think that a fan would be just perfect, given the heatwaves that have swept Europe this summer, but Brocade has different ideas.

Its FAN - although to be fair, the term seems to have been dreamt up by a market research analyst - is a File Area Network, which is basically a SAN with networked file management sitting on top to provide a unified name-space for files. In effect, a file system for the network.

The aim is to fix the problems that Brocade and its rivals - especially the NAS suppliers - have caused by making it easy to add networked storage without making the files stored on each filer or disk array universally accessible.

To be sure, a unified name-space is an attractive idea. Going from direct-attached storage to a SAN allowed you to consolidate your storage, and especially your free space, but SAN storage still had to be chopped up and allocated to the various servers and systems around the network, with no guarantee that those systems would be able to share data.

But while the idea is sound, it is far from new. And colour me sceptical, but it smells like a load of buzzword bullsh1t, latched onto by Brocade's marketeers to justify its investing in a WAFS partnership with Tacit at just the wrong time.

The thing is, Tacit was a leader in its field, but that field has been side-stepped, merged, however you want to put it. Fewer and fewer organisations will buy WAFS alone in the future - it has become just one component in the broader fields of WAN optimisation and application acceleration (Tacit knew this, and had already started adding other stuff to its iShared boxes), and Brocade has few of the other elements needed to compete there.

Meanwhile, almost everyone else in this area not only has WAFS (or its cousin WADS - wide area data services) and the other technologies needed, but they also understand the real point of WAFS/WADS/WAN optimisation, which is all to do with server and storage consolidation.

Brocade is trying to convince us that it can do the same as them simply by " adding some network file management (NuView's StorageX and MyView) to its WAFS investment. Calling it a FAN means it can conveniently ignore all the bits it's missing.

Maybe I'm being unkind (if I am, please use the box below to tell me so!), and Brocade's vision will turn out to be the right one, but right now it smells of smoke, mirrors and FUD.