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HDS, NetApp forge alliance on NAS, SAN systems

HDS has a new partner, and it's a big one. The company struck a deal with Network Appliance to sell NetApp's NAS gateway devices with HDS Freedom storage arrays, bringing block and file level storage applications together.

A pair of stalwart storage companies have joined forces to bring network-attached storage (NAS) filing capabilities and high-end storage area networks (SANs) together.

Hitachi Data Systems Corp. (HDS), Santa Clara, Calif., and Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp), Sunnyvale, Calif., have penned a plan to sell enterprise NAS systems. Under terms of the agreement, HDS will offer NetApp enterprise NAS gateway devices for Hitachi Freedom Storage arrays managed by HDS HiCommand Management Framework tools.

The nuts and bolts of it is this: using the NetApp NAS head with HDS arrays will let customers deploy a storage pool that can be shared across SAN and NAS applications. The gateway features a subset of a regular NetApp NAS filer's total functionality. It is a NAS head that exports data to HDS storage on the back end.

"HDS customers who, by the way, need file services as well as block SAN services, can put all of their data on their mission-critical [HDS] 9900 back ends and use market leading NetApp to become a NAS application server on the SAN," said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst for the Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group Inc.

He said HDS users would have had to go elsewhere for a NAS solution that took data off of the 9900. "Now HDS has a legitimate competitor to EMC's Celerra."

Dan Warmenhoven, CEO of Network Appliance, said during a phone brieifing that the NAS gateway is designed for enterprise-class data centers with significant SAN infrastructures that also have file-serving requirements.

While the enterprise NAS gateway is expected to ship in the early months of 2003, there is a catch. The NAS gateway will be available for Hitachi-branded Freedom Storage high-end and modular products. NetApp's Warmenhoven said the gateway would not initially be available for HDS storage that is sold and branded by partners Hewlett Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc. It is likely that it will eventually be sold into HP and Sun storage environments, but Warmenhoven said support agreements need to be solidified first.

"If we were to do something front-ending another vendor's storage systems, they would have to commit to a support agreement [as HDS has]," said Warmenhoven. However, he said, NetApp is "receptive to those opportunities."

Dave Roberson, Hitachi's president and COO, said the NAS gateway will be co-branded by the companies and sold through HDS but will be repositioned for resale through HP or Sun.

"For many of our customers this will be a good solution because they already have NetApp [filers] installed. It makes sense for them to consolidate the two platforms," Roberson said.

Roberson said the companies' sales efforts will focus on the existing HDS customer base and expand to HP and Sun accounts in the future. "In order for this to be interesting to a customer, all of the vendors must be involved in a support agreement. HP and Sun have their own support and are not included in this agreement," he said.

Until now, HDS has had minimal NAS connectivity to its high-end storage arrays.

Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner with the Data Mobility Group Inc., Nashua, N.H., said HDS was faced with two choices: build its own NAS product or sell someone else's.

"HDS gets a gateway product that enables them to sell a NAS solution. Their previous agreement with [Network Storage Solutions] was not a very successful venture, but NetApp has a market presence which NSS did not have," McAdam said.

She said that both companies are out to gain market share and that this partnering arrangement will give HDS more exposure in the NAS market and NetApp more exposure in the high-end market.

Product specifications and further details are expected in the coming weeks.

Let us know what you think about the story. E-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer


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