Networked storage for the masses

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Storage magazine: Using file virtualization to improve network-attached storage:

Storage vendors know it takes more than scaling down enterprise products to bring networked storage to small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). By designing wizards and even providing poster-sized step-by-step guides that hide much of the setup, migration and configuration mechanics from entry-level users, "it's making [networked storage] as close to plug and play as possible," says Frank Berry, VP of marketing at QLogic.

Late last fall, QLogic announced its SAN Connectivity Kit for EMC's Clariion AX150, which bundles everything required to build a SAN connected to the AX150, including installation wizards for the package's SANbox 1404 Fibre Channel (FC) switch and 4Gb FC SANblade host bus adapters. Brocade and Emulex similarly announced that they would contribute products to the InstaSAN Connectivity Kit for the AX150.

Last September, Hewlett-Packard (HP) took the automated, do-it-yourself concept it offers with its All-in-One (AiO) printers and applied it to its entry-level arrays. AiO StorageWorks Systems can be configured as an iSCSI SAN or a file-serving NAS--in 30 minutes or fewer, according to HP--offering up to 1.5TB in capacity and with pricing starting at approximately $5,000.

SMBs--which could represent a $5.7 billion storage market by 2010, according to IDC--are just as interested in networked storage as their enterprise counterparts, but often don't have the storage-specific skills or time necessary to build and maintain a SAN or NAS system. In addition to offering a lower entry-level price point, do-it-yourself kits must be highly intuitive, requiring little storage know-how and hands-off management.

"It makes them feel more secure in moving to this new storage because they feel that if they just take the defaults ... then they're not going to make a mistake," says Dianne McAdam, director of enterprise information assurance at The Clipper Group, Wellesley, MA.

David Lay, director of IT at the Salem Law Group in Tampa, FL, has experience in setting up complex SAN and NAS systems and has beta-tested HP's StorageWorks AiO Storage System. Regarding AiO, Lay thinks the industry is headed in the right direction. "It's really going to be a boom for small businesses," says Lay. "If you know anything at all about computers, and you can point and click, you would be able to set this thing up without a problem."

--Trina MacDonald

This was first published in March 2007

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