Entry-level NAS race heats up

By Lisa Coleman

Network-attached storage (NAS) vendors are targeting small to mid-sized businesses that want increased capacity and performance beyond what typical entry-level NAS has delivered in the past. This month, several vendors announced products to meet these users' needs.

Analysts say that entry-level/workgroup and small- to mid-sized business NAS is a growing market segment, even though this year's NAS market revenue of $1.65 billion dipped below last year's revenue of $1.79 billion, according to International Data Corp. Next year, the NAS market is predicted to hit $1.93 billion and will continue to increase through 2006.

This week, Dell launched the PowerVault 725N NAS server as a replacement for its 715N entry-level NAS device. Dell transitioned to the Intel Pentium 4 for the 725N, which features a maximum throughput of 240MBps and an 80% performance improvement over its predecessor, according to Dell officials. The 725N offers two PCI slots in a 1U form factor with four ATA RAID hot-swappable drives and capacity up to 480GB. Snapshot capability will be available as well. The 725N server is priced from $1,799.

The operating system is mirrored across drive partitions so that a user can pull out a drive without the OS failing, says Marc Padovani, Dell's product manager for NAS. Dell has adopted the Microsoft server appliance kit (SAK) for Windows-based NAS across all of its platforms, and it plans to use the Windows .NET Server 2003 code base after it is released next year.

In an attempt to differentiate itself from other OEMs using the Microsoft SAK, Dell has programmed the Windows interface to provide simplified disk and volume management for status monitoring and revision information. It also has incorporated Microsoft's multi-device manager for one-to-many device management across the network.

Iomega is also making a run for the small to mid-sized business market with its latest device, the P415, which is available in either a Windows or Unix version. It features four 180GB ATA hot-swappable drives; RAID 0,1, and 5; a 1GHz Pentium 3; and dual 10/100 Ethernet ports. The Windows version offers a choice of SCSI or Gigabit Ethernet configurations. The system ships with Iomega's Automatic Backup software, a data-protection program that automates designated file backups. Prices for the P415 start at $5,499.

Iomega entered the NAS market in April and is now offering nine products in the entry-level space. All of its NAS devices, with one exception, are available in either Windows or Unix (BSD) versions.

"There's so much stuff that ties around the Windows ecosystem that we think that's the platform that will dominate long-term," says Akshay Gupta, product general manager at Iomega.

IBM also announced plans to boost its penetration in the entry-level space by opening up its sales of its NAS 100 to its partners that sell PCs and servers.

This article was originally published on November 20, 2002