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EMC backs off Windows NAS

EMC will stop selling its NetWin 110 and 200 Windows NAS boxes, switching instead to reselling third-party products through its Select Program.

EMC Corp. is scrapping its Windows-based NAS boxes in favor of reselling third-party products, most likely from long-standing partner Dell Inc., the company confirmed.

EMC launched the NetWin 200, based on Windows-Powered NAS 3.0, in April 2003, and the NetWin 110, based on Windows Storage Server, in May 2004. From November on, it will stop selling these products directly and will resell yet-to-be-named partner products through its Select Program.

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"It's a distribution strategy change … we're not exiting the Windows NAS market," said a spokesman for EMC. He declined to say how many NetWin systems EMC has shipped but hinted that the company was unable to compete with the volume shipments by server manufacturers at the low end of the NAS market. "There's a certain level of comfort, knowing who your general server supplies are, for the smaller, lower end," he said.

The Hopkinton, Mass., storage company's pricing might also have had something to do with it being squeezed out of the market. The NetWin 110, a 1U single processor NAS gateway, costs $6,100. The previous model, the NetWin 200, was a 2U dual-processor system that costs roughly $17,600 -- both hefty price tags for low-end systems.

"EMC was not going to spend a lot of time pushing NetWin, it wasn't their core IP … EMC is not best suited for this kind of product – Dell is much better suited for it," said Tony Asaro, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc.

Meanwhile, EMC also sells its own homegrown NAS box called Celerra, recently updated with a new blade architecture and software capabilities, including file system virtualization.

Selling the Microsoft boxes may have put EMC in competition with its own product, Celerra and with its partner Dell, analysts said. Furthermore, from a users' perspective, EMC is not selling an integrated NAS offering that spans the low end to the high end. Companies are forced to buy the Microsoft boxes for branch offices and Celerra for the data center -- two totally different platforms.

Analysts said they wouldn't be surprised to see EMC introduce a lower end version of Celerra 6-12 months from now, which will compete in the small and midsized business market.

Other companies have also tried and failed to make money selling Microsoft's NAS boxes. IBM's storage group dropped its Windows-based NAS systems in July 2003, then toyed with a gateway product before abandoning all internal efforts to partner with Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) instead. A spokesman at Microsoft noted that IBM's server group picked up the Windows NAS product as it was "more aligned to this channel". Around the same time, Hitachi Data Systems Inc. took a completely different tack and killed its reseller relationship with NetApp to build a NAS blade for its TagmaStore array.

What's interesting is that while all this jockeying for position goes on among the vendors, users are increasingly turning to more unified platforms for NAS, SAN and iSCSI.

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