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Sub-$10,000 SANs become a reality

Storage startup iQstor is offering a serial ATA-based Fibre Channel SAN for a price one expert calls "impossible to argue with."

Storage startup iQstor Networks, Newbury Park, Calif., has set the bar for low-cost Fibre Channel SANs with the debut of its iQ1200, a self-contained serial ATA (SATA) storage array that features embedded software usually found in high-end systems. The cost? Pricing for a 1 TB configuration starts at less than $10,000.

Aimed at small and medium-sized users, the iQ1200 is a 2G-bit/sec storage system equipped with up to 15,250 GB SATA disk drives. The system scales up to 3.75 TB. The iQ1200 provides four front-end Fibre Channel ports and up to 4 GB of cache memory. Each system comes with embedded management features including virtualization, snapshots, policy-based management, remote replication and volume copy services. However, each feature requires a license key to be activated.

Estimated end user pricing starts from $9,995 for an entry level 1.2 TB configuration with virtualization software. A nearline configuration with 3.75 TB and virtualization software is priced at $16,576. A configuration with 3.75 TB, SAN Manager and data services software suite is priced at $33,572.

"They really are the first example of a low-cost, intelligent array," said Marc Staimer, founder of Dragon Slayer Consulting. "Even though they charge [license fees] for the software, it is still inexpensive."

Staimer expects top-name storage vendors like LSI Logic Storage Systems Inc., IBM, Storage Technology Corp., Silicon Graphics Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and EMC Corp. to follow suit with their own low-cost, intelligent arrays within the next 12 to 18 months.

All of the iQ1200's components, including the storage processors, disk drives, power supplies and cooling modules, are hot-swappable and redundant. The iQ1200 features dual active SP120 storage processor modules with transparent fail-over support and integrated RAID levels 0, 1, 3, 5, 1+0.

"IQstor is trying to crack the panacea of the SAN -- building a high-value, high-function SAN with an impossible-to-argue-with entry cost," said Enterprise Storage Group technology analyst Brian Babineau. "They then want to provide all the high-end software function the big guys offer, at a fraction of the cost -- and make it all manageable by anyone on the staff. A very noble goal, but very hard to do."

Albert Saraie, director of marketing at iQstor Networks, said, "We built this array for small and medium-sized business and enterprise users who want to spend between $15,000 and $150,000 on a storage system. We can provide a storage solution for the guys who are beginning to think about SANs and are saying, 'I can get a terabyte for about $10,000, and I'll have a SAN in place that I can grow over time.'"


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