Auspex restructures, launches NAS server lines

Auspex restructures, launches NAS server lines

Zachary Shess

Late last month, Auspex Systems introduced a series of network-attached storage (NAS) servers expected to transform its product line--and perhaps its financial fortunes. A pioneer in the specialized NAS market, the Santa Clara, CA-based company suffered product development problems in 1998, which contributed to fiscal year losses of $17.3 million.

After initially establishing itself in the high-end NAS server segment, Auspex underwent an 18-month, $36 million revamping of its research & development programs. The restructuring, combined with a somewhat static high-end NAS market, resulted in a broader approach to the market and an expansion of capacity points in the new 4Front product line. Expected to begin shipping next month, the three NAS servers will scale from 18GB workgroup versions up to 4.5TB enterprise-level configurations.

Auspex`s move into new market segments is seen by some industry observers as a logical, but not a particularly radical, expansion. "I don`t think it`s an unfamiliar area to them, it`s just different models, different price points, but with the same functionality," says Sean Derrington, an analyst with the Meta Group consulting firm, in Stamford, CT.

The decision to move into the workgroup NAS server market is backed up by forecasts from Dataquest, a market research firm in San Jose. The NAS market is nearly a billion-dollar industry ($925 million), with the workgroup segment expected to grow 188% annually over the next three years. Enterprise NAS array growth during that time frame is expected to grow by just 86% per year.

At the entry level, Auspex introduced the 4Front AS100 "appliance" server, designed for workgroups with 10 to 20 users. Offering RAID Level 1 mirroring, the AS100 can scale from 18GB to 109GB. Company officials envision the server providing dedicated, offloaded storage to a remote office, for example, that needs fast access, but still requires heterogeneous file access to stored data at its headquarters. To facilitate this, and to provide storage for Web-based data, the AS100 supports the NFS, CIFS, and HTTP protocols.

For departmental users in areas such as software design, with high-speed sequential I/O requirements, the 4Front AS200 offers up to 291GB of capacity at RAID levels 1 and 5. In addition to supporting both UNIX and Windows NT servers, a standard AS200 feature is its network data management protocol (NDMP) interface, which enables the server to be integrated with any third-party backup application.

From a capacity standpoint, the new NS2000 Enterprise Netserver is more in line with traditional Auspex NAS servers. By pairing down hardware components and adding the capability to scale network I/O speed, company officials plan to target the NS2000 to users who want to start at a relatively lower price and capacity and grow their capacity and data rates as their environments grow and requirements evolve.

The NS2000 is a three-node design that scales up to 4.5TB. Each node can support two Gigabit Ethernet connections, 12 Ethernet 10/100 interfaces, or 2 FDDI interfaces for environments with 25 to 5,000 users. The journaling file system can be configured for an environment that requires random or sequential, large file requests. A data-moving kernel has embedded NFS and CIFS protocol support, which facilitates communication with both UNIX and Windows NT servers.

Its processing performance is based on two Intel CPUs and up to three RISC-based RAID processors. Each node offers up to 1GB of read cache and 192MB of non-volatile RAM write cache.

Pricing for the AS100 and AS200 starts at less than $16,000 and $32,000, respectively. The NS2000 enterprise model begins at $76,950.

This article was originally published on February 01, 1999