Snap Appliance joins the iSCSI club

Snap Appliance launched a new NAS server that can serve up both file and block storage via iSCSI.

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Cheap storage anyone? Snap Appliance Inc., San Jose, CA, king of the entry-level NAS market, announced today a new Snap Server that can serve up files and block data, via iSCSI, starting at about $7 per gigabyte.

The SnapServer 15000 consists of a controller with 1TB of data onboard, plus a 4TB SnapDisk 30 expansion unit. That same Snap Server 15000 can scale to 29TBs, with the addition of another six expansion units.

With this announcement, Snap Appliance joins a couple of exclusive clubs. On the one hand, Snap Appliance is one of a handful of vendors to offer a native iSCSI disk target. Other iSCSI target vendors include several small start-ups such as EqualLogic, Intransa, and LeftHand Networks; as well as a handful of major leaguers, namely Network Appliance and EMC. Last week, Adaptec also announced an iSCSI disk target, the Adaptec iSA1500 Storage Array, aimed at workgroups and small-to-medium sized (SMB) businesses.

But the days when a journalist can list iSCSI disk target vendors off the top of her head are numbered, according to Jim Sherhart, Snap Appliance product manager. "We believe this is the year of the iSCSI target," he predicts.

With the Snap Server 15000, Snap Appliance jumps on another bandwagon: "unified" file and block storage, a la NetApp FAS family. That comes by way of Snap's new Linux-based operating system, Guardian OS 3.0, which features its Unified Storage Architecture, Snap-speak for the ability to seamlessly serve up both block and file.

Other features found in Guardian OS 3.0 reflect Snap's long-standing focus on the ease-of-deployment and management required by SMBs. For example, Guardian OS now includes a feature called Instant Capacity Expansion, or ICE, which allows you to seamlessly add capacity, without having to expand your RAID sets.

Guardian OS 3.0 can be applied Snap models running earlier Guardian versions, starting with the Snap Server 4200.

Sherhart expects the 15000, with its iSCSI support, to go deeper into the data center, but probably more than any other application, it will be used for backup. Already, Snap estimates that 40% of its NAS filers are used for backup, in some form or another, up from "the low single digits just a few couple of years ago."

That's fine by Snap, which had bundled a bevy of data protection software with this operating system release. It has abandoned its previous relationship with SyncSort and its Backup Express in favor of BakBone Software's NetVault 7. "The feedback from our customers was that [Backup Express] was not an intuitive product," Sherhart says. The 15000 comes with a full version of NetVault WorkGroup edition, estimated to be an $1100 value.

Other bundled software included in Guardian OS is Symantec's DataKeeper and now V2i Protector, a bare metal restore package. Symantec gained this software when it acquired PowerQuest last year.

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