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EMC offers Windows-based NAS, for how much?

EMC has made its NetWin Windows-based network-attached storage gateway smaller and cheaper, but with a Clariion on the back end is it a cost-effective approach to NAS?

Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp. has launched a new version of its NetWin network-attached storage (NAS) gateway that it claims is half the size and a fraction of the cost of its predecessor, but there's a catch.

The NetWin 110 requires an EMC Clariion storage array on the back end, which bumps the price up significantly. Is it then, a cost-effective approach toward Windows-based NAS?

In its efforts to gain a hold in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market, EMC has designed the NetWin 110 as a 1U single processor NAS gateway that costs $6,100 and runs the Windows Storage Server 2003 operating system. The previous model, NetWin 200, was a 2U dual processor system that rated roughly $17,600 on the street.

EMC bills the NetWin 110 as a "cost-effective solution for customers looking to implement NAS for the first time" or expand the capabilities of their storage area network (SAN), but it admits that the best fit for a NetWin box is not as a pure NAS solution until a cheaper model of the Clariion makes its way to market.

"The CX300 is not the optimal array to put behind this except in SAN configurations," said EMC's Tom Joyce, senior director of NAS product marketing. "If you've got a CX300 SAN and you put a NetWin in front of this, you've added NAS to the party." "But I don't think it's a secret that EMC intends to move Clariion down as well."

Joyce believes the NetWin110 will help EMC capture direct-attached storage (DAS) users that have traditionally been out of EMC's reach.

A base Clariion CX 300 configuration with a NetWin 110 front end will cost approximately $40,000 -- a hefty price tag for Windows-based NAS storage when compared to the likes of Dell's sub-$2,000 PowerVault 745N. But industry experts expect EMC to debut an entry-level Clariion in the coming weeks, which could finally make historically expensive EMC storage a viable option in the SMB market.

"The coming of the new low-end storage will dramatically reset the price points," said Randy Kerns, a senior partner with the Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Evaluator Group Inc.

It has been reported that EMC will launch the CX100 storage system later this year for as little as $5,000.

EMC also touts NetWin's support for Microsoft Exchange 2003 and its integration with Windows Storage Server, which allows it to use Microsoft features like Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) and Virtual Disk Service (VDS) and enables NetWin to be managed through both Windows and EMC's proprietary ControlCenter software.

Michael Fisch, director of storage and networking at The Clipper Group, Wellesley, Mass., said the cost-effectiveness of a NetWin depends on the Clariion array behind it. "If it is a fraction of a SAN-attached Clariion CX, especially an existing array that could be considered a sunk cost, then the solution cost is minimal. As a gateway, I would expect NetWin to be generally deployed in SAN environments," he said.

Fisch expects that the upcoming entry-level Clariion will pair well with the NetWin110 for a low-end NAS configuration.

The NetWin 110 is available now and will be sold exclusively through EMC's distribution partners including Arrow Electronics Inc., Avnet Inc. and Tech Data Corp.

There's more Microsoft NAS news on the horizon. Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif., is expected to announce a new Windows-based NAS system at Microsoft's TechEd conference next week.


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