NAS Competition Revs Up

Currently, several stories compete for the top storage news spot. For this week's column, I've chosen the story that could have the greatest impact on the largest number of Storage UPDATE readers.

EMC has begun its foray into the Network Attached Storage (NAS) space in earnest. Yes, I know that EMC has Celerra and that Celerra provides industry-leading performance serving files. But the catch is that Celerra works only as a front end for Symmetrix boxes. When EMC sells Celerra, the significant Symmetrix purchase locks the company out of most NAS purchases. NAS, as it turns out, is a price-sensitive market well-tuned to the idea of storage appliances and using a distributed model of installation and management, an approach that resonates with the Windows server market.

Network Appliance dominates the NAS market at the moment (with slightly more than half of it), and other vendors—such as Compaq, IBM, and Dell—are introducing products to a market estimated at about $2 billion. (Analysts predict that NAS will be a $7.4 billion market in 2004.) Windows offers a strategic market for NAS because Windows networks tend to grow from the bottom up. Although EMC has done well serving some very large projects on Windows-based networks, the growth potential lies in smaller storage systems.

EMC has introduced the EMC IP4700 (formerly code-named Chameleon), a 3.6TB NAS box meant to compete on both price and function with the Network Appliance F840 system (and the two-node clustered F840c) and to blunt Network Appliance's foray into the high-end NAS enterprise space. Organizations typically use such NAS systems in file and print applications, replacing NetWare and Windows servers on the network.

EMC has taken the realtime OS and file system that the company acquired with CrosStor software and added it to Data General Pentium III-based AViiON servers and CLARiiON storage hardware to create a system that EMC thinks will provide an industry-leading midtier NAS solution. The IP4700 will probably cost about $85,000, which makes it one of the lowest-cost high-availability midtier NAS solutions on the market today. The IP4700 won't offer Symmetrix's very high levels of availability and software features, but it will offer a lot of hardware redundancy. For example, the IP4700 will have Gigabit Ethernet, fully redundant hot swappable circuit boards, processors, and—of course—hard drives. In comparison, Network Appliance's F840c—the company's high-availability two-node clustered solution—costs about $250,000.

EMC has also upgraded Celerra by offering support for IP networks attached to Storage Area Networks (SANs). EMC's new HighRoad software will let data traffic run on either IP or fibre channel connections. Additionally, EMC has introduced the Celerra single enclosure (SE), a smaller version of its enterprise NAS system meant for smaller businesses. The Celerra SE puts a Celerra appliance in the box with a Symmetrix system—letting you connect to that Celerra SE box using an IP network.

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