NetApp adds FAS2240 entry-level unified storage array

NetApp upgrades its entry-level storage platform with the FAS2240 to compete with unified EMC VNX and VNXe platforms and iSCSI SANs from HP and Dell.

NetApp Inc. upgraded its entry-level FAS2000 storage platform with the FAS2240 unified storage array today while reducing the price of its FAS2020 in the wake of increased competition from its main rival EMC Corp. in the low end of the market.

NetApp is launching SAS and SATA versions of the FAS2240 and lowering the price of the FAS2040 that it rolled out in 2009. The new systems have faster Intel processors and more physical memory than the previous generation of FAS2000 storage. NetApp is also making solid-state drives (SSDs) an option for the FAS2240. SSDs weren’t available on previous FAS2000 systems.

The FAS2240 comes in two models. The FAS2240-2 is a 2U system that scales to 144 SAS drives and 374 TB of capacity, and the FAS2240-4 is a 4U system that scales to 144 SATA drives for 432 TB. Both systems come in single- or dual-controller configurations with four on-board Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and two on-board 6 Gbps SAS ports per controller. Four 8 Gbps Fibre Channel (FC) or 10 GbE ports can be added through an optional I/O card. The new systems run DataOntap 8.1 and have 6 GB of physical memory per controller.

The FAS2240 systems also support up to one shelf of single-level cell (SLC) SSDs, for a minimum of 6 TB of flash. FAS2240 systems don’t have the Flash Cache array-based PCIe card option that NetApp sells with its higher-end FAS3000 and FAS6000 systems.

NetApp claims the FAS2240 is at least twice as powerful as the FAS2040, a 2U model that scales to 408 TB and has 4 GB of physical memory per controller.

NetApp will phase out the four-year-old FAS2020 and FAS2050 systems, and lower the price of the FAS2040 to an entry price of $7,500 for 6 TB. NetApp’s lowest-cost system has been the FAS2020 at $8,000. Pricing for the FAS2240 systems starts in the $20,000 to $40,000 range, according to Chris Cummings, NetApp’s vice president (VP) of product marketing.

NetApp has also upgraded its OnCommand System Manager software for the 2000 series. Version 2.0 lets administrators perform tasks such as storage partitioning, thin provisioning, and setting up LUNs and mirrors between systems from a GUI with wizards.

The FAS2240 is designed for organizations with 100 to 1,000 employees, which NetApp said accounts for one-third of its business. The competition in the market has changed over the past year. EMC and Dell ended their partnership, and EMC launch unified VNX and VNXe multiprotocol systems to replace the lower-end Clariion CX and Clariion AX systems EMC and Dell co-branded. Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co.’s P4000 LeftHand Storage Systems and Dell EqualLogic iSCSI systems are the other major players in the entry-level market.

Cummings said the difference is that NetApp uses the same architecture for all its FAS storage, and the lower-end systems can be upgraded to higher-end boxes or deployed as expansions shelves with the bigger NetApp systems. All FAS systems run the same Data Ontap OS.

“Other systems reach a certain threshold, and it’s time to rip and replace,” Cummings said. “With us it’s not a rip and replace. You’re doing an in-place upgrade to add capacity or add a controller, or you take a 2040 or 2240 and make it a shelf. There are no massive re-cabling or migration exercises.”

Cummings said one of the new features -- the SSD option -- probably won’t get much adoption in the price-sensitive low end, “but it’s something that channel partners wanted to see. They want to have that flexibility.”

Brian Babineau, VP of research and analyst services at Enterprise Strategy Group, said he expects SSDs to eventually catch on in the lower end of the market, but for now customers are looking for simple management.

“In a lot of cases, it’s a question of pure ease of use; how fast can I get it out of the box, move my applications on it and let it run,” he explained.

The VNXe and the lower end of the VNX line is the closest competitor to the FAS2240 from an architectural standpoint. When EMC launched the midrange VNX and entry-level VNXe systems last January, it moved directly onto NetApp’s turf by making its main platforms multiprotocol. HP LeftHand is iSCSI only, while Dell added a NAS option to its EqualLogic SAN earlier this year.

“It’s a nice grudge match between those two,” Babineau said of NetApp and EMC, “but Dell and HP are other contenders in this market.”

EMC faced questions about its multiprotocol capabilities when it brought out the VNX, but Babineau said NetApp competitors still try to paint it as primarily a NAS vendor on the low end. “Many will question NetApp’s ability to deliver this system in a block storage environment,” he said. “It supports iSCSI but it will have to overcome some biases about this being only a file solution.”

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