Attune, a start-up supplier, has announced its FM5500 virtualising appliance that combines other vendor's NAS products into a single, virtual NAS storage space.

The FM5500 Maestro File Manager performs network file management and is not a NAS box in its own right. It is connected to the network by ten 1Gbit/s Ethernet ports.

Customers can adopt Attune's appliance in three graded steps or modes, forming a low-risk deployment process. Initially they can use it to automatically and out-of-band discover all file servers on their network.

Next they can group some of these file servers inside Maestro's global namespace and access their files through the Maestro interface or through the existing NAS interfaces.

Lastly they can drop the original NAS interfaces and access the NAS products entirely through Maestro, adding the rest of the file servers in their network to Maestro's global namespace as well.

Then servers see the NAS resources only through the FM5500. Maestro File Manager can tier different NAS products to provide primary, secondary and tertiary NAS resources based on disk array performance characteristics. Dan Liddle, Attune's marketing VP, said: "Think of us as turnkey ILM (information lifecycle management) for unstructured file data."

When used just in discover mode the Attune product provides policy-based management, in-depth resource discovery, alerts, reporting and pro-active intervention to avoid disruption and preserve business continuity.

In the third, fully-extended mode, Maestro can pool separate NAS products into a single, virtual NAS. It can automatically add extra capacity to a NAS share if existing usage reaches a high water mark. It can also load-balance a customer's workload across tiers of NAS storage inside its global namespace.

There are customisable striping and mirroring options down to the individual file level. It also has an optional accelerator feature for small files to ensure that the lookups needed to access them don't slow down their access by application servers. They are, in fact, cached on the Attune appliance.

You can arrange things so that different NAS products in your network are in different FM5500 modes.

The product has a scripting engine so that Attune partners and customers can produce new policy-based processes to best manage their own NAS resources.

Regarding the main NAS virtualisation competition Liddle said: "EMC's RainFinity NAS virtualisation product does a good job at migrating content between devices (but) namespace and tiering is very recent and not really efficient yet. It's predominantly a migration engine. We do that too plus we do a whole lot more."

Attune's FM5500 is available now at an MSRP of $44,995 (about £26,000).