NAS goes Mainstream
By Zachary Shess
The network-attached storage (NAS) market may have entered 1998 as a niche segment, but as the year ended significant OEM agreements and technology alliances signaled its beginning as a more mainstream option.
For example, at Fall Comdex, Auspex Systems and Creative Design Solutions (CDS) signed a technology pact that will result in the production of Unix and NT storage devices for workgroups and departments. CDS is expected to OEM its storage server middleware, enabling Auspex to move into the lower-end NAS server market. Auspex plans to distribute the new products sometime this half.
Dell Computer`s recent OEM agreement with Network Appliance marks its entry into the NAS server market. Dell`s plan to leverage NetApp`s multiprotocol NAS technology for enterprise-level Windows 2000 storage markets is an incremental step for the company as it builds its relatively new storage business, officials say.
The agreement also enables Dell to sell networked file servers, which offer consolidated and offloaded storage resources to enterprise customers with heterogeneous environments who need access to the same data. Products resulting from this agreement will be sold under the Dell PowerVault brand and should ship later this year.
Some industry analysts see these alliances as a sign that larger system vendors have evaluated the NAS concept and are preparing to enter the market. "While they recognize that NAS is not the end-all market, it`s a big opportunity and vendors can easily get into it through these partnerships," says James Staten, an analyst with Dataquest, a market research firm in San Jose, CA.
"Today, NAS is a $900 million market--and Dataquest predicts it will grow to $6 billion by 2002--so there is a very strong market opportunity over the next several years," says Scott Weinbrandt, director of server brand marketing at Dell. "The agreement is a progression of offering our customers a broader storage portfolio."
Robert Gray, research manager at International Data Corp., a market research firm in Framingham, MA, agrees. "Dell has recognized that storage is a very big profit engine, and they`re leaving no stone unturned in putting together a group of products without gaps."
In addition to the NAS agreement, Dell recently bolstered the midrange and high end of its storage subsystems line with an Ultra2 SCSI array, RAID controller, DLT library, and enhancements to its Fibre Channel array family. Aggressively priced, the subsystems are based largely on storage devices from third parties.
The PowerVault 200S, built on an enclosure from Eurologic Systems, is an Ultra2 SCSI array with up to eight 7,200rpm or 10,000rpm drives. Prices range from $3,000 to $17,000 for a 576GB configuration.
The PERC-2 is a 64-bit PCI Ultra2 LVD SCSI controller with four channels and up to 128MB of cache. The board is based on Adaptec technology. Price: $1,899.
The PowerVault 130T DLT tape library starts at $17,799, and can be configured with up to four drives and 30 tape cartridges for a total capacity of as much as 2TB. The library is based on Storage Technology`s 9370 library.
Dell also upgraded its PowerVault 650F Fibre Chanel arrays with up to 120 9GB or 18GB 10,000rpm Fibre Channel drives. With 10 drives, the subsystem is priced at $24,000.