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BlueArc, HDS launch midrange NAS

NAS partners BlueArc and HDS look to widen their appeal with smaller NAS systems that bring them into the midrange and into greater competition with NetApp.

BlueArc Corp. and its NAS partner Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) are moving downmarket with BlueArc's first midrange Titan system, which brings the NAS duo more into mainstream storage shops and into greater competition with Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp).

The Titan 1100 is designed to broaden BlueArc's appeal as the vendor moves closer to its initial public offering (IPO). The company filed its registration form with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in September and is expected to become a public company by the end of the year. BlueArc's other primary NAS systems, the Titan 2100, 2200 and 2500, are aimed at the enterprise and high-performance computing.

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HDS, which forged an OEM deal and took an equity stake in BlueArc last December, will sell the new system as the Hitachi High Performance NAS 2000. HDS today also launched the High Performance NAS 2000 Nearline, which is the array BlueArc rolled out for secondary storage secondary storage three weeks ago. HDS sells the Titan 2100 and 2200 systems as part of its High Performance NAS line.

Until now, BlueArc has concentrated on high-performance and enterprise customers where price isn't likely to get in the way of a deal. But that knocked BlueArc out of deals where price is a factor. Pricing for the Titan 1100 starts at $75,000, making it BlueArc's first sub-$100,000 system.

"They're taking the Titan down a notch," said analyst Greg Schulz of the Storage IO Group. "The comment you commonly hear about BlueArc is it's great for the high end, but it's just for the rich and famous or high-performance computing. People often look at BlueArc and say that's too much for what I need. It makes sense for them to come down market. It's a great first step, but I think they have to come down more."

BlueArc's NAS partner HDS primarily sells block storage into the high end and had little success with NAS before connecting with BlueArc. The midrange NAS system provides an option for its midrange customers to attach their storage to NAS. "It allows Hitachi to bring some of its storage in with NAS leading the way instead of as an accessory," Schulz said.

BlueArc director of product marketing Jon Affeld said the midrange system should help the vendor make a stronger push into organizations where CAD, digital mapping, surveillance, and e-commerce are common applications. "Applications that didn't make sense for the high end now make a great deal of sense," he said.

The Titan 1100 maxes out at 50,000 IOPS, compared to 75,000 IOPS for the 2100 and 100,000 IOPS for the 2200 and 2500. Its maximum capacity is 128 TB, compared to 256 TB for the 2100, 1 PB for the 2200 and 2 PB for the 2500. The 1100 has four Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) ports compared to six for the 2100 and 2200, and two 10 GigE ports for the 2500. And, the 1100 supports only two cluster nodes while the other systems can cluster eight nodes.

The Titan 1100 runs the same software suite as the larger systems, including global namespace and other storage virtualization, storage management and data protection applications. It is also built on the same architecture and uses the same operating system.

"It runs every feature we have," Affeld said. "It's not a Titan-light. It's easier for us to scale down than for other vendors to scale up. NetApp was originally designed for the midrange, now it has to split its product line into pieces to address the high end."

He was referring to NetApp's Data OnTap GX operating system for high-performance computing, which is a different OS than its basic Data OnTap. The Titan 1100 is positioned against NetApp's FAS3070, the high end of NetApp's midrange system. IBM also sells that system as the IBM N5600 through its OEM deal with NetApp.

Moving into the midrange not only puts BlueArc and HDS squarely against the NetApp/IBM in that NAS tag team match, but brings it into greater competition with EMC Corp. Still, NetApp remains the main competition, and Affeld said BlueArc competes with NetApp in at least 80% of its deals.

If it goes public, BlueArc will have to impress investors, as well as customers, and that means growing revenue to cut losses. BlueArc's annual revenue grew from $23 million for the year that ended Jan. 31, 2006, to $42 million last year, and it was at $32.3 million for the first six months of this year. But it lost $12.8 million last year and $7.2 million the first half of 2007.

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