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Nexsan moves into NAS market with gateway

Nexsan plans to enter the NAS market from the edges of the enterprise with a gateway based on Windows Storage Server.

Nexsan Technologies is making its move into the NAS market with a NAS gateway offering called The Edge.

The NAS gateway, based on the Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003, will be sold by Nexsan with the customer's choice of two from among its SASBoy, SATABoy and SATABeast arrays. Users can mix SAS and SATA for tiered storage behind the gateway or use one type of disk for storage-intensive applications. The Edge configuration can hold up to 84 TB of storage in 8U and features Nexsan's AutoMAID disk spin-down.

In the first iteration of The Edge, the NAS gateway will support Windows only. It will also offer snapshots and replication through Microsoft's distributed file system (DFS).

The Edge is a departure from Nexsan's other product names, most of which include the word "beast" or "boy." But according to William Allen, president and CEO of Nexsan's top reseller, ESS Direct, the NAS gateway fits with Nexsan's strategy for infiltrating the NAS market, beginning with departments at the edge of enterprises.

Although Nexsan may be a latecomer to the mature NAS market, interest in NAS is still mounting as unstructured data grows. Allen said that Nexsan will compete with NetApp and other established players on price and reliability for lower-tiered applications.

"We're taking [The Edge] into pharmaceutical companies and some banking companies as well," Allen said. And while Nexsan will suffer from being Windows-only and lacking brand recognition among potential customers in its target markets, Allen said he's won over other Nexsan customers, including NASA, to the idea of using the company's SATA-based arrays as primary storage.

"For primary applications, people have thought you need Fibre Channel drives, which Nexsan doesn't offer," he said. "But the reliability of the product has made some reconsider their storage requirements."

Nexsan has quietly penetrated the enterprise with cheap and deep storage based on low prices and reliability, said Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Peters. "It's a balance between cheap and deep and offering more functionality," he said. "It's not quite like getting a Ferrari for a Ford Taurus price – more like getting a Taurus for the price of a Ford Focus, but with BMW-level testing."

Nexsan claims 99.9% reliability for components in its nearline SATA boxes, based on "a software suite [we developed] around an advanced set of heuristics used to prescreen disk drives," said Bob Woolery, Nexsan's senior vice president of marketing.

Because Nexsan has filed for an IPO and is in a quiet period, Woolery declined to answer any roadmap questions about The Edge, such as whether the product might evolve into a multiprotocol device that would consolidate gateway and arrays.

"Eventually, they need to broaden the product to support more applications, like Unix operating systems," Allen said. "But for now, it's about how well the product is supported, and Nexsan can follow through with support and reliability."

"It's late," Peters said of Nexsan and NAS. "But it's not too late."

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