Hitachi Data Systems is drawing from its expertise in the consumer electronics market and the technologies it has developed for enterprise storage customers to come up with a new entry-level storage system that could finally give the company a foothold in the small to medium-sized business (SMB) market.

Announced today, Hitachi’s Simple Modular Storage (SMS) Model 100 is an iSCSI array that includes auto-configuration software, wizard-based setup, and plug-and-play installation and maintenance features.

The SMS 100 is optimized for Windows environments with support for Microsoft’s Simple SAN program. The array supports Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) and Virtual Disk Service (VDS), enabling users to manage, provision, and copy data from Windows platforms. The SMS also features native multi-path I/O (MPIO) support and is integrated with Windows native backup software and Symantec’s Backup Exec.

All SMS 100 systems include RAID 6 to protect against simultaneous drive failures and can scale from less than 1TB to nearly 9TB per enclosure without IT intervention.

Furthermore, the SMS automatically moves data to larger-capacity systems without downtime using Hitachi’s Auto-Migration feature.

The SMS also includes two plug-and-play “repair slots.” In the event of a disk failure, Hitachi will ship customers a free drive following automatic online notification from the SMS management console. Customers then plug the new drive into a repair slot without disrupting system operation.

Hitachi expects the SMS will hold its own against competing products in a market already crowded with SMB storage platforms. Michael Walkey, senior vice president of global volume channels at Hitachi, says that key competitors include Network Appliance’s S500, EMC’s AX150i, and Hewlett-Packard’s All-in-One (AiO) 1200.

Pricing for the SMS array starts just under $5,000 and ranges up to $15,000 for a dual-controller configuration.

Walkey says adopting external storage is still a complex proposition for most SMBs. “We’ve done a lot of research with our resellers and SMBs, and the overarching theme is that SMBs understand the benefits of external storage, but still view it as too complicated,” he says.

According to John Webster, principal IT advisor at the Illuminata research and consulting firm, “consumer” may be the keyword in Hitachi’s SMB storage plans as the product could theoretically serve both the SMB and consumer storage markets. “The SMS is designed so that users can set it and forget it. It’s a self-contained unit,” says Webster. “Its form factor is designed to be transportable, and it could also work as an extension of Hitachi’s storage systems into the consumer space.”

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