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Netgear launches dirt-cheap IP SAN

For as little as $150, small office users can buy an IP SAN from Netgear that doesn't require HBAs, RAID controllers or expensive disk drives.

Netgear Inc. has launched its long-awaited IP storage device, dubbed Storage Central, that offers small office and home users a mini SAN for as little as $150.

Based on IP storage technology from Zetera Corp., the Storage Central enclosure has space for two 3.5-inch Integrated Drive Electronics drives (not included) of any size that mirror each other. Zetera's firmware also enables partitioning of the drives and the ability to string multiple Storage Central arrays together. The company has tested up to 20 units working together in the lab but claims it is theoretically possible to link as many together as it would take to get to 128 petabytes. The product also includes a SAN file system from Data Plow Inc. and backup and synchronization software. The product scales from 100 GB to 1 terabyte.

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Zetera uses IP multicasting technology for RAID functions, such as striping, mirroring and spanning to create logical drives. It works through Ethernet switches and serves as a controller inside enclosures provided by its partners, in this case Netgear.

"Wave goodbye to RAID cards, host bus adapters (HBAs), expensive controller architectures and overpriced disk drives," said Jon William Toigo, managing partner for Toigo Productions. "This is true IP storage … Just plug in the disks to any IP network and use multicasting to create shared arrays."

Toigo, who has been testing and reviewing the new Netgear-branded storage appliance for the past month, said that the technology is simple to deploy and use, and performs faster than low-end NAS products from name-brand manufacturers. "It is the perfect complement to media servers and MP3 players for the consumer market in its current manifestation," he said, "but I expect to see Zetera technology climbing the storage food chain in the near future to meet the business needs of millions of companies." [Ed note: Toigo is not paid by either company.]

Netgear's stock price jumped 7.2% to $24.28 Monday as the product was announced, and analyst Ryan Hutchinson of WR Hambrecht & Co. reiterated his "buy" rating on Netgear, while raising his estimates for the company. The 12-month target price has been raised from $24 to $29.

Under the covers

Zetera uses a proprietary version of User Datagram Protocol, rather than TCP used by iSCSI. The idea is to boost performance without the need for TCP offload engine cards. Zetera claims its method is cheaper and easier to use than iSCSI.

Whether users will be willing to adopt a product based on a proprietary protocol remains to be seen.

Still, the company claims the reseller community is interested in the product for small companies like dentists' and doctors' offices that don't have a huge budget for storage but need to protect their data and keep it online, Malone added.

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