Sony enters NAS market


This month, Sony will begin shipping the first of three storage systems expected to come out of its storage solutions division this year. The company, which also manufactures Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT) drives and libraries, cites growing demand for disk-based backup systems as a key factor in its decision to enter the fiercely competitive network-attached storage (NAS) landscape and to branch out from its roots in tape backup.

"There is a definite trend toward NAS as a target device to back up users on a network," says Brad Nisbet, an analyst with Inter national Data Corp. (IDC). Last month, for example, Maxtor announced MaxAttach NAS 6000 support for disk-to-disk backup with Legato NetWorker or Veritas Backup Exec 8.6 (see story below).

"We still need tape, but [network storage] eases the burden of doing restores off tape," says Doug Stringer, business development manager for Sony's storage solutions division.

Sony's initial line of NAS devices consists of an entry-level file server (FSV-E1), a midrange file server (FSV-M1), and a network backup server (BSV-M1). The three products are part of the new StorStation family, which also includes the two-drive LIB-162 tape library (see New Products section, p. 74).

First to ship is the StorStation FSV-E1. Its 80GB capacity, 1U form factor, file-sharing capability (Windows, Unix, and Apple/Mac), and $1,300 price tag position the device squarely in the small office/home office (SOHO) market, says Stringer.

For higher-performance/capacity NAS, Sony next month will begin shipping the StorStation FSV-M1. This four-drive, 480GB appliance supports file sharing in Windows, Unix, Linux, Netware, and Mac environments and can be set up for RAID 0, 1, and 5. It is also Gigabit Ethernet-ready and has an external SCSI port that can be used to connect the device to local tape.

The FSV-M1 file server supports a variety of backup applications (e.g., from BakBone, Computer Associates, Legato, and Veritas), which run on the device. This eliminates per-client license fees and creates a "serverless-backup-type" environment, according to Stringer. Other application servers on the network are freed from the backup/restore process, reducing system CPU usage, he says.

Also next month, Sony will begin shipping the BSV-M1, a pre-packaged 3U-high backup server and tape library combo targeted at midrange workgroups. Unlike the FSV models, the BSV-M1 is strictly a backup device; it has no file-sharing capabilities. The server has limited capacity (20GB) but serves as the backup component; the library (LIB-162) is integrated for data archival onto removable media.

The idea is for multiple users to back up data to the server on a daily basis and then archive that data to tape on a weekly basis, explains IDC's Nisbet. "It's more of a backup appliance, but it still follows the trend of using network-attached storage as backup."

As for future plans, Stringer says the company plans to move up the NAS food chain as well as down into consumer markets. Despite its strong brand recognition, Sony will face steep competition from players like Snap, which leads the NAS market in unit share, and Maxtor, which has already begun to promote NAS- centered backup.

This article was originally published on October 01, 2001