NEC targets US disk array market

By Kevin Komiega

—NEC, a major player on the global IT scene for more than four decades, is taking a crack at the North American storage market with the launch of a new series of modular disk arrays that can scale to more than a petabyte with zero downtime.

NEC Corporation of America's D-Series arrays are available in five versions: The D8-1010, D8-1020, and D8-1040 provide a non-disruptive upgrade path for medium-to-large enterprises through NEC's unified modular-monolithic design; the D1-10 and D3-10, which require offline upgrades, are targeted at SMBs.

  • D8-1040: Four-node configuration with up to 64 Fibre Channel ports, 1,536 SAS/SATA disk drives, and 128GB of cache memory;
  • D8-1020: Midrange model with two nodes and up to 32 Fibre Channel ports, 768 SAS/SATA drives, and 64GB of cache;
  • D8-1010: Single-node array with up to 16 Fibre Channel ports, 384 SAS/SATA drives, and a 32GB cache;
  • D1-30: Entry-level model for SMBs or departments with up to 12 Fibre Channel ports, 144 SAS/SATA disks, and 4GB of cache; and
  • D1-10: Low-end model with four Fibre Channel ports, 72 SAS/SATA disk drives, and 2GB of cache.

The D1-10 and D3-10 arrays are priced at $15,000 and $26,000, respectively. Pricing for the D8-Series ranges from $43,000 to $153,000. The D8-Series will not be available until the end of the summer.

Beyond the non-disruptive upgrade capability, NEC also packed the D-Series with a number of technologies for maintaining high-availability for business continuity purposes. For example, RAID Triple Mirror combines random access performance with continuous operation in the event of two drive failures. The D-Series also supports traditional RAID-6 technology.

The D-Series arrays can be configured with SAS and/or SATA drives, allowing users to implement tiered storage within a single array.

NEC is also bringing another patented technology to bear with the D-Series in the form of Phoenix, a self-diagnosing disk recovery technology that can reduce drive degradation by up to 50% and cutting the need to do rebuilds.

The disk arrays also features double redundant (four) power supplies, and double-mirrored cache to maintain high response rates in the event of a cache failure.

John Webster, principal IT advisor with the Illuminata research and consulting firm, says NEC's entrance into the North American market presents a unique scenario.

"NEC is well-known, but not for storage. We're used to seeing start-ups appear on the storage horizon and facing the conundrum of how to gain a position in an established market," says Webster, "but you don't often see a big, heavyweight IT player show up in a space that they have never been in before. It's almost like they're a start-up in the storage space with a big company name."

Webster notes NEC is being aggressive on pricing, at least for a large vendor, to establish a foothold in the market.

NEC's pitch to US enterprises is the promise of non-disruptive scalability, performance, high-availability, and a consistent storage management platform.

"NEC wants to expand its global position. We are not known in North America for our branded business, but we have been installed in many customer accounts for years through our OEM business. We can springboard off that installed base to expand our branded storage portfolio," says Victor Gamaly, senior product marketing manager for NEC's storage business.

All indications are that NEC has made substantial investments in storage R&D. The launch of the D-Series and the upcoming release of NEC's grid-based HYDRAstor technology imply that NEC is serious about becoming a major player in the North American storage market.

"They have a product line that appears to be solid and can start at the entry-level and scale all the way up to the high-end, but shifts in the storage market take time and the entrenched players are strong," says Clipper Group analyst Mike Fisch. "NEC's ability to gain market share depends on how much they are willing to invest in marketing and sales."

Fisch believes NEC will first gain traction in the US by winning midrange customers. "They will be able to make headway more quickly in mid-size companies and at the lower end of the enterprise market," he says.

This article was originally published on May 15, 2007