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NetApp launches $5K box for small businesses

Network Appliance Inc., makes its move down market with the launch of StoreVault, a $5K box sold exclusively through the channel to small businesses.

Network Appliance Inc., is making its long anticipated move down market with the announcement today of its StoreVault...

S500, a device that starts at $5,000 for a single terabyte (TB) and will be sold exclusively through the channel.

NetApp characterizes a small-to-medium business (SMB) as a company with 50 to 1,000 employees, up to 50 servers and a budget of under $20,000 a year for storage.

"We are talking about companies with limited IT staffs, who are generalists… They need help deploying [storage] and [learning] how to use it correctly," said Sajai Krishnan, general manager of NetApp's SMB business unit. He says this is why NetApp made the decision to sell the StoreVault line solely through the channel. The company is actively recruiting VARs that sell to SMBs. "It's not the skill set of our existing VAR partners," he noted.

The StoreVault S500 will reportedly support NAS and iSCSI out of the gate and by the fall will include a SAN starter kit from QLogic Corp. to support Fibre Channel. It's a 2U, 12-slot appliance that supports 250 gigabyte (GB) or 500 GB SATA drives, for a total of 6 TB of storage. An iSCSI TCP/IP Offload (TOE) card from SilverBack Systems is available for users who want to boost host performance, which can get bogged down by TCP processing.

The StoreVault operating system is Data OnTap StoreVault Edition. In other words, this is a separate product family to the rest of NetApp's FAS enterprise suite. "You can't go from StoreVault to the FAS line," Krishnan noted.

NetApp will scale StoreVault up and down, according to Krishnan, and will add features to the product that make sense for SMBs. Today, it can take up to 250 snapshots per day, and an application called SnapRestore provides a one-click function for recovery, the company claimed. It also supports NetApp's RAID-DP feature to guard against dual drive failures.

"Something like our Data Fabric Manager on the enterprise side that provides a console for managing hundreds of devices isn't appropriate for SMB," Krishnan added.

Prior to StoreVault, the smallest configuration available from NetApp was the FAS250, a 4 TB, 14-drive box for $15,000, which supports NetApp's SnapMirror and SnapVault applications.

The StoreVault S500 will compete with HP's MSA 1510 and Proliant DL100, EMC's AX100, Dell's PowerEdge 2900 and Adaptec's Snap Server 520.

Analysts say that NetApp has taken the time to create a product that is built from the ground up for SMBs. "Too many vendors try to shove feature-stripped versions of their enterprise products into the SMB space because that's where all the hyper-growth is now," said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group.

The tough part NetApp faces will be in recruiting and training VARs who already carry "a ton load of products," said Arun Taneja, consulting analyst and founder of the Taneja Group. "NetApp has a strong presence but getting their attention and training them will take time."

Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst with StorageIO noted that there's no replication in the first release of StoreVault, but he expects to see it in the next version.

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