IBM NAS Challenges NetApp

Posted on June 20, 2001

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BY LISA COLEMAN

Following up on its storage networking initiative launched earlier this year, IBM is shipping three new network-attached storage (NAS) servers in an attempt to garner market share in a space dominated by Network Appliance and EMC. NetApp and EMC accounted for more than 86 percent of all NAS revenues last year, according to the Gartner Group research and consulting firm.

In February, IBM introduced a NAS "gateway" product and a "pre-iSCSI" disk array to kick off its new storage strategy. The NAS 300G has an Ethernet front-end and a Fibre Channel back-end connection to link NAS and storage area network (SAN) technologies. This month, IBM shipped an enhanced NAS 300G that allows two-node clustering.

The other new NAS products include two devices designed for workgroup and branch office environments, and a high-end NAS server targeted at mission-critical applications:

- The TotalStorage NAS 200 is a tower unit with one processor and up to 216GB, and is designed for consolidating servers and storage. A 108GB version is priced at $14,000. The TotalStorage NAS 200 also comes in a rack configuration with two processors and up to 1.74TB. A dual-processor 216GB configuration is priced at $36,000.

- The TotalStorage NAS 300 is a dual-engine redundant system that is scalable to 3.24TB. A 360GB version is priced at $115,000.

IBM's NAS products will compete primarily against Network Appliance's F85 and 740, according to Bob Maness, director of marketing for IBM Data Storage Products. IBM claims its NAS 200 device is less expensive than a similarly configured F85. IBM also claims that the dual-processor NAS 300 rack unit is up to 50 percent faster than Network Appliance's two-node 740 appliance, based on NetBench benchmark tests.

In addition, IBM claims its NAS offerings are differentiated from other NAS products because of their high availability and xSeries Advanced Systems Management processor, a diagnostic tool that identifies potential and existing problems in the system and sends alerts.

NAS, SAN integration

IBM's NAS 300G gateway is generating considerable interest among end users and distributors. "The gateway is a new concept for a lot of customers looking at NAS and SAN," says Bill Pinkerton, director of IBM storage marketing at distributor Pioneer-Standard. "Most of the customers that we?ve presented it to really like the idea because it doesn?t change their infrastructure."

Large vendors such as EMC, IBM and Hitachi Data Systems all have some type of "gateway" product that allows a degree of NAS-SAN convergence, as do smaller vendors such as ECCS and Raidtec. "Companies that are putting in SANs might rather use a gateway than a (standalone) NAS appliance because of manageability issues," adds Pinkerton.


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