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EMC chases NetApp with cheaper NAS devices and iSCSI support

EMC continues its push down market, announcing lower-cost NAS products.

EMC Corp. announced Monday lower-cost models of its Celerra network attached storage (NAS) system, with iSCSI support and improved management capabilities.

The Hopkinton, Mass.-based storage company claims its Celerra NS500 system, available in an integrated or gateway configuration, outperforms similarly configured midrange products from NAS market leader, Network Appliance Inc. NetApp spokespeople welcomed the competition but advised users to test products against each other in "the real world" before buying.

The NS500 system is available today with a list price of $40,000 for a 1 TB single data mover (file server) with CIFS support and SnapSure (EMC's snapshot software). EMC claims it offers performance that exceeds that of a Network Appliance FAS960 at a price that's 24% lower than NetApp's FAS270.

For failover capability, users simply slot an additional data mover into the NS500, versus bringing in a second NAS head with Network Appliance systems, EMC said. " NetApp's approach is much more disruptive to operations," according to Tom Joyce, senior director of NAS marketing at EMC. "Network Appliance hasn't had a lot of competition, but now they do."

Also new, the Celerra NS704G gateway is available immediately with four data movers and support for single or dual controllers priced at $165,000. The NS500G with a single data mover costs $37,800 and with two data movers jumps up to $53,300.

IBM slashed its gateway pricing just a week ago from $50,000 to $30,000 for a single processor configuration.

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According to IBM, mid-sized companies with SANs already in place are interested in extending their storage to other departments via gateway products, but are not willing to shell out large amounts of money for it.

Conversely, Joyce said EMC has customers that are spending millions of dollars a year just buying file servers. "The NS704G lets them consolidate a bunch of these onto one box."

Software improvements

EMC said its improved Windows integration, iSCSI support and centrally managed operating environment offer considerably more functionality than IBM's low-end device.

In the new version of its DART operating system, EMC has added iSCSI target support for users that want a single box for file and block IP storage. A graphically displayed status-monitoring capability improves on the command line management of previous NAS products from EMC and through integration with Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS), users can now perform file-level restores using MS Explorer's "previous versions" property tab. This allows users to recover their own files, which EMC said lowers support costs.

Tony Asaro, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, noted that EMC has been steadily filling out the holes in its NAS portfolio and now has the full breadth of products for the low-end, midrange and high-end markets. "HP, HDS and IBM still don't have a good NAS story, leaving NetApp, which now has some decent competition at last." He added that historically the Celerra was more complicated than NAS products should be, but the latest wizard-driven software is a "huge leap" he said.

According to International Data Corp., NetApp still has a strong lead in the NAS market, and its early entry into iSCSI puts it ahead of the pack here, too. For the first quarter of 2004, NetApp had 48.4% of the iSCSI disk storage systems market, as measured by market share in factory revenue and 65.2% of the market in terabytes shipped. During its earnings conference call this month, NetApp CEO Dan Warmenhoven said the company has more than 700 IP SAN deployments worldwide.

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