Cisco has bought network-attached storage technology in-house by buying NeoPath, a virtualiser of networked file storage. NeoPath's File Director appliances consolidate separate networked file storage (NAS) resources into a single virtual pool with one global namespace. This makes it much easier to move files between storage arrays, using customer-set policies, and to provision file storage to applications.

For customers the NeoPath product is a platform for file data management services to be carried out in the network between servers and storage arrays, instead of by storage array controllers. As disk drives become ever more a commodity with steadily lowering cost per GB, storage arrays have gained more software and become more expensive. For example, NetApp and EMC arrays provide replication and snapshot facilities to protect customers against drive, array and data centre failure. These lock customers in to a particular array provider.

By transferring such functions to networked appliances sitting between accessing servers and the file storage arrays, that lock-in is abolished and customers can buy much less expensive arrays.

The purchase fits in with Cisco's strategy of emphasising the network as the place for data management functions. In the Fibre Channel storage area network (SAN) world it provides an intelligent platform for this with its MDS 9000 range of directors and switches. By buying NeoPath Cisco is also validating the importance of networked file storage to customers generally.

Ed Chapman, a product management VP in Cisco's data centre business unit, asserts that, as the common connection between all the components of a data center, the network is in a perfect position to help manage its IT operational resources: "By offering a smarter, faster, and more sophisticated network, Cisco aims to boost the agility, performance and scalability of data centers while helping lower their operational costs."

By bringing networked file data management into its product line Cisco aims to help customers manage and access networked files more efficiently and with less complexity. They will be able to make their wide area application services (WAAS) more effective as well as Cisco will accelerate file system performance and enhance capabilities by integrating file systems more closely with the network infrastructure.

Previously Cisco has invested up to $29 million in NeoPath in several funding rounds. The 55-person concern will become part of Cisco's Data Center Switching and Security Technologies Group (DSSTG) reporting to senior VP Jayshree Ullal. There is more background to the acquisition here.