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Microsoft lines up NAS partners

EMC, HP and Dell announce support for Exchange users on Windows NAS boxes. How are the offerings different?

Microsoft may have been two years late in bringing network-attached storage (NAS) support for Exchange to the masses, but the storage industry has been racing to win these users over since the software giant debuted its feature pack for Windows Storage Server 2003 last month.

The feature pack allows users to consolidate and store file and print server data along with Exchange e-mail data on a single NAS system.

Redmond, Wash., Microsoft will announce that Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif., EMC Corp., Hopkinton, Mass., and Dell Inc., Round Rock, Texas, are each launching new Windows-based NAS products at its TechEd conference in San Diego, Calif., Tuesday, that take advantage of the newly announced support for Exchange.

In an effort to differentiate their products, the storage makers are taking slightly different approaches toward NAS for Exchange.

EMC, which jumped the gun and announced its NetWin 110 NAS gateway product last week, is courting users who already run storage area networks (SANs) on EMC's own Clariion CX storage arrays. Users can simultaneously store SAN and NAS data on the same Clariion by adding a NetWin110 to the mix. There's a catch, however: a Clariion CX is expensive for a user who just wants NAS. EMC's NetWin110 costs approximately $6,000, but the cheapest Clariion –the CX300— carries a price tag of more than $20,000.

HP is banking on its enormous installed user base of Windows server customers. According to an HP spokesman, the company recently shipped its 8 millionth ProLiant server running Windows. HP is offering Windows Storage Server 2003 feature pack with support for Exchange Server 2003 on its StorageWorks NAS 2000s and 1200s storage systems. It will be available on May 24, 2004. Pricing for the 2000s model and the 1200s ranges from $2,495 to $5,800.

HP believes it has an edge in the Windows-based NAS game because of the sheer size of its server business. "If you're a server vendor there are some natural advantages that you have. It's much cheaper to get to market than someone like EMC who doesn't have a server business," HP's spokesman said.

The self-named server vendor has also partnered with CommVault Systems Inc. to offer a HP version of CommVault's QiNetix backup and recovery software.

And finally, Dell will reportedly add Exchange support to its line of PowerVault NAS products. Last month Dell launched the PowerVault 745N, a 1U rack system with processor speeds of up to 3.2 GHz and storage capacity ranging from 160 GB to 4 TB. The system uses external SCSI-attached storage to scale capacity to the multiple terabyte range.

The 745N supports Windows, Linux, NetWare, Unix and Macintosh environments, as well as Dell PowerVault tape backup devices and data protection software from Veritas Software Corp. and Yosemite Technologies Inc. Pricing for the PowerVault 745N storage server starts at $1,799.

For its part, Microsoft is hoping support from these storage OEMs will help its effort to compete with rival Network Appliance at the high end and Linux servers at the low end.

One early adopter of the product, Hill School in Pottstown, Penn., used Windows Storage Server with the feature pack on a StorageWorks 2000 NAS device from HP, which was installed and configured by the school's staff and some high school students. They moved 100,000 e-mail messages down to the NAS box and back up to the Exchange Server in less than 10 minutes. Satisfied with the performance, the Hill School moved all of its 100 individual e-mail boxes onto Storage Server 2003 and the StorageWorks NAS system.

For more information:

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Find out what NAS can do for Microsoft Exchange.

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