HP unveils optical NAS servers, tower

Posted on June 01, 1999

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HP unveils optical NAS servers, tower

Zachary Shess

Shortly before the introduction of its HP Equation SAN architecture last month, Hewlett-Packard rolled out a series of network-attached storage (NAS) devices in a comparatively quiet announcement.

In contrast to a SAN`s complex, high-capacity, multi-vendor characteristics, HP is addressing workgroup storage needs by beginning volume shipments this month of its SureStore line of optical NAS servers. HP officials anticipate the servers will be used in environments such as law and medical libraries and other organizations requiring fast access to shared data with overall ease of use.

At the entry level, HP introduced the SureStore CD-ROM server, which enables users to share between one and seven 32x CD-ROM drives. The SureStore CD-ROM Server Plus includes six CD drives and one 18GB hard drive. For faster access to frequently accessed information, up to 28 full CD-ROMs can be cached onto the hard disk drive.

The seven-drive HP SureStore CD/DVD-ROM Server reads both optical formats, and is designed for users planning to eventually migrate from CD to DVD. HP also introduced a seven-drive CD expansion tower that can be used with all three servers.

SureStore NAS servers include HP`s file server-independent, thin-server technology, which offers increased performance since devices are directly attached to the network, and are unaffected by file server failures and other application overhead. Like any NAS device, the servers are subject to a network`s I/O limitations, say industry analysts.

As early SureStore users, students and faculty of The Hill School, a high school in Pottstown, PA, have recognized the benefits of using NAS servers. The 36-building campus includes some 900 students and faculty members, all of which have laptops directly networked to the two CD-ROM servers and one CD/DVD-ROM device.

"The servers have been really helpful in bringing multimedia applications to our students and faculty located throughout the campus," says Rick Bauer, the school`s CIO. The servers hold a wide range of educational reference materials, such as Encyclopedia Britannica and Encarta. Bauer says by having the servers network-attached, they have essentially created a 24-hour-a-day library.

The inherent lack of technical support found at a school also makes plug-and-play file access and storage more attractive. "Ease of use and maintenance are important because you can`t ask a teacher to hang a new CD drive or swap out media," says Bauer.

The Hill School`s experience with optical NAS servers is indicative of an application tailored for network-attached optical storage, according to Farid Neema, president of Peripheral Concepts, a Santa Barbara, CA-based consulting firm. "Not every organization is necessarily limited by speed, so it`s handy to have a device that can easily plug into the network," says Neema. "Most users are not looking for a technology, but something that is simple to use and reliable.

Pricing starts at $2,740 for the entry-level HP SureStore CD-ROM Server.

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