Unisys enters NAS market

Posted on March 01, 1998

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Unisys enters NAS market

By Zachary Shess

Unisys recently entered the network-attached storage (NAS) server market with the PrimeStor NAS2000 product line. The introduction marks a major move for Unisys, which plans to transition 60% to 70% of its business into the NAS area over the next three years.

The market for NAS is picking up steam at the expense of more traditional server-based storage, where storage devices are connected to the host bus (see figure below). Strategic Research, a consulting and market research firm in Santa Barbara, CA, defines NAS as "a disk array that connects directly to the messaging network via a LAN interface such as Ethernet, using common communications protocols. It functions as a server in a client/server relationship, has a processor, an operating system or micro-kernel, and processes file I/O protocols such as SMB and NFS."

With pricing starting around $40,000, the PrimeStor NAS2000 line is touted by Unisys officials as a high-speed, high-availability storage and file-access system, containing two clustered Windows NT-based servers, Fibre Channel disk drives, and software-based RAID.

"We want to bring enterprise characteristics to the midrange level," says Bob Liberatore, vice president of sales and marketing for Unisys` open storage solutions division. The servers can be equipped with 50GB to 568GB of storage capac- ity and will eventually be scalable to 1TB.

Company officials also claim an active-active configuration linked via a "heartbeat" interconnect eliminates single points of failure. A "Dynamic RAID" subsystem and three layers of cache (system-level, mirrored, and block pool cache) provide additional data security. Global file sharing and Cheyenne software are also available.

Sean Derrington, an analyst with the Meta Group consulting firm in Stamford, CT, expects the PrimeStor line to help Unisys transition smoothly into NAS. "They should have an easier time stepping into the midrange storage market because of their high-avail- ability features," says Derrington. "More and more people are looking for that."

With more than 8.4 million land records dating back to the 1600s, the Essex County Registry of Deeds in Salem, MA, plans to eventually put every land deed on the Web for public access. When the Registry started the project more than 18 months ago, the technical staff quickly realized it needed more storage capacity and faster access to the information within the office and through the Web site. "When I told the assistant county register about the idea of putting all our records on the Web, he told me we would need two things: speed and speed," says John O`Brien, register of deeds.

The Registry, which previously used Unix systems, needed more than just I/O performance. According to O`Brien, they chose the Unisys storage server because of its open storage configuration, ease of management, reliability, and file-serving speed for both internal and Web-based applications.

The Registry`s PrimeStor NASS2000 server, which has been in place as a beta site since October, is attached directly to the network. One node functions as a Web server, the other as an internal server. The system has 400GB of capacity, which serves two scanning stations, about 20 PCs, and two print servers.

Pricing for an entry-level 54GB PrimeStor NAS2000 with a two-node NT cluster starts at $39,496. For more information, visit www.unisys.com.


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