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Nexsan offers SAS, SATA, spin-down in one box

The new SASBeast disk array from Nexsan combines multiple tiers of storage with drive spin-down; analysts say we'll see more efficiency-focused products like it this year.

Nexsan Technologies Inc. is offering its first disk array with support for both SAS and SATA drives with the SASBeast, which ships starting Monday.

In addition to tiered storage in a box, the product includes policy-based drive spin-down and new chassis designs meant to improve power, cooling and space efficiency as storage customers contend with flat or falling budgets, and data continues to grow.

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Bob Woolery, Nexsan's senior vice president of marketing, says the market is shifting in response to pressure on capital expenditures this quarter and the global economic downturn still unfolding. "A year or two ago, brand recognition and reputation were a priority [in storage purchasing], but now customers are looking for value first, and quick return on investment," says Woolery.

In a survey conducted by Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) in November of approximately 500 IT decision makers in North America and Western Europe, 36% of respondents said coping with data growth was their top enterprise storage priority. Controlling storage systems cost was second with 35% of responses. "That balance is becoming crucial," says ESG analyst Mark Peters.

Lenox Hill Radiology & Medical Imaging Associates P.C. in New York City has already deployed the SASBoy with spin-down features, and director of technology Joe Funaro says he's considering replacing a legacy EMC Corp./Dell Inc. system that currently takes up 20U of space with the denser SASBeast. "We'd probably also get higher performance with a newer array," he says.

The SASBeast packs 42 3.5-inch SAS or SATA drives into four rack units, with support for up to four controllers in the chassis. SAS and SATA drives can be mixed and matched within the same shelf, although RAID groups should use the same drive types for stability, says Woolery. The system will also support concurrent Fibre Channel (FC) and iSCSI operations.

Drives supported in the array include 300 GB and 400 GB 15,000 rpm SAS drives, as well as 500 GB, 750 GB and 1 TB 7,200 rpm SATA drives. Maximum SAS capacity is 18.9 TB raw; maximum SATA is 42 TB.

The SASBeast array can also be slotted into Nexsan's DataBeast chassis, which offers storage virtualization features such as automated migration for tiered storage and data protection.

Nexsan has also redesigned the chassis hardware for SATABeast to accommodate the different shock and vibration characteristics of SAS and SATA disk drives, and to improve airflow for cooling.

Within SASBeast, customers can set drives to spin down through three different stages volume-by-volume according to policy, a feature Nexsan calls AutoMAID that it also offers with the smaller SASBoy array announced last June.

Among the top storage initiatives in the ESG survey, says Peters, tiered storage, storage virtualization and power efficiency are close to the head of the list, but the No. 1 initiative is a box Nexsan hasn't checked with its individual Beast and Boy arrays—data deduplication and deletion. "That's another feature that's fast becoming a check-box item," notes Peters. Data Domain Inc.'s DD460g gateway is certified to add dedupe to Nexsan's arrays, but data reduction isn't a native feature.

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at Hopkinton, Mass.-based Taneja Group, says customers should look for more vendors to focus on efficiency, especially by "straddling" tiers of storage with one physical chassis. "I think you're going to see this from most of the NAS vendors that we know of," he says.

Woolery says SASBeast can be made into a NAS device using the gateway Nexsan launched last August.

Starting price for the chassis with 14 300 GB SAS drives is $38,800. A fully loaded SAS array costs $4,200 per TB.


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