EMC recharges midrange NAS

By Lisa Coleman

Cranking up its focus on the midrange network-attached storage (NAS) market, EMC is leveraging its high-end Clariion gateway technology in its new midrange NAS device, the NS600, which offers high-end features and high availability at a relatively low cost, according to analysts.

However, EMC may have a tough road ahead of it since Network Appliance dominates the midrange NAS market.

One obstacle may be the recent alliance between Network Appliance and Hitachi Data Systems (see "HDS and Network Appliance team for NAS," InfoStor, January 2002, p. 1). HDS will OEM a NetApp-designed NAS gateway to hook into HDS's 9900 and 9500 disk arrays. The combination could compete with EMC's NS600, claim analysts. While HDS is not divulging product details, analysts believe that EMC could get squeezed in the midrange by both HDS's gateway and by NetApp's FAS900, which supports Fibre Channel storage area network (SAN) products (see "Network Appliance enters SAN market," InfoStor, November 2002, p. 1).

However, EMC is confident its midrange NAS formula is the right one. The NS600 combines a Celerra NAS head and Clariion CX600 disk array in one platform. A front-end enclosure contains two data movers with two 2GHz Intel processors. It uses EMC's Data Access in Real Time (DART) software, which runs across all the Celerra products and provides a single platform for management. The box also includes an enclosure for managing back-end Clariion disk arrays.

The NS600 operates in two modes: primary/standby for users who need high availability, and primary/primary for those who prefer performance over availability. In primary/standby mode, if one of the data movers fails, the system provides fail-over to the second data mover and offers performance of up to 22,600 I/Os per second, according to EMC claims. In primary/primary mode, the NS600 uses both data movers for file serving and provides up to 36,000 I/Os per second.

The NS600 scales to 11TB and provides an upgrade path to the high-end Celerra Clustered Network Server (CNS), which hooks into either the Clariion CNS or Symmetrix disk arrays. The NS600 is priced from $167,000 for a 1TB configuration.

EMC is also touting the NS600 as a more-efficient and cost-effective alternative to clustering NAS filers. "We put it all in one frame," says Chuck Hollis, EMC's vice president of storage platforms marketing. "The high availability and dual controllers are designed in, and they're not add-ons. That lowers our cost and the customers' cost."

Pricing is a huge factor in the midrange NAS market, says Dianne McAdam, senior analyst for the Data Mobility Group. "Affordability is key, and NetApp figured that out a long time ago," she says. "But the Celerra [CNS] in front of a Symmetrix is a high-end product that is expensive. You had to have a real need for it to justify its cost." However, McAdam says the midrange Celerra NS600 pricing is competitive.

This is not EMC's first time targeting midrange NAS. Previously, the company offered the Clariion IP4700, which did not take off as expected.

"From a technical perspective, we were very happy with that product. [However,] our customers were not," admits Hollis. One stumbling block for the IP4700 was its environment and software, which were not compatible with Celerra. However, EMC corrected that compatibility issue by running DART on the NS600 and thereby making all its midrange and high-end NAS devices compatible.

EMC also announced OnCourse software for automated file distribution. EMC licensed technology from Signiant, a spin-off from Nortel. The software automates data transfers and related processes to eliminate manual work performed by IT administrators to push and pull files. Unlike similar data movement products, OnCourse works with any hardware, not just EMC's.

This article was originally published on February 01, 2003