EMC attacks midrange NAS

HighRoad software combines NAS, SAN


Taking aim at network-attached storage (NAS) leader Network Appliance, EMC's recent entry into the midrange market is bad news for all NAS players but good news for end users looking for more choices in a market dominated by a handful of vendors. NetApp currently holds about a 49% share of the NAS market (compared to EMC's 29% share), but EMC hopes to become the market leader by year-end with a combination of the midrange Clariion IP4700 and enhancements to its high-end Celerra File Server line.

The fault-tolerant IP4700 includes redundant components (dual processors, controllers, drive paths, memory, communications ports, power supplies, and fans) and fail-over capability in a single box. In contrast, Network Appliance requires two F840 NAS servers for a clustered fail-over configuration called the F840c.

"The claim to fame of the 4700 is its high-availability features," says Jim Rothnie, chief technology officer at EMC. "There's no single point of failure, and all components are hot-swappable."

Analysts say the IP4700 will provide stiff competition for Network Appliance's F840 and F840c. "EMC has a very competitive product," says Steve Duplessie, an analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group. "The IP4700 is priced competitively with NetApp's F840 cluster configuration and has all the high-availability characteristics you need."

The stakes are high. International Data Corp., for example, predicts the NAS market will shoot from $2.1 billion last year to almost $15 billion in 2003.

In one of the more optimistic projections, IDC expects the NAS market to hit about $14.7 billion in 2004.
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The IP4700 can scale to 3.6TB (with 100 drives) and is based on technology developed by Data General's Clariion division-which EMC acquired in 1999-and embedded operating system software from CrosStor, which EMC acquired late last year (see "EMC purchases CrosStor for $300M," below). Optional software includes EMC's SNAP-view/IP snapshot backup software for point-in-time copies and, in the future, data replication software. The IP4700, formerly code-named "Chameleon," also supports the Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP) standard for NAS-based backup.

Unlike NetApp's F840, the IP4700 does not support HTTP. "The principal demand for this class of server is for NFS and CIFS," says Rothnie. He expects support for HTTP will eventually be added to the IP4700.

Unlike EMC's high-end Celerra, which must be coupled to the company's high-priced Symmetrix disk arrays, the IP4700 is a standalone NAS device with its own local storage. Prices start at $82,000 for a 180GB configuration with 10 18GB drives. A 360GB version (with 36GB drives) is priced at $101,000, and a 3.6TB configuration costs $560,000. (73GB drives will be available within the next month or two.)

By comparison, a two-node, 4TB Net-work Appliance F840c is priced at $500,770, and a single-server 2TB F840 is priced at $211,525.

EMC claims comparable performance with Network Appliance's F840c at a lower price. "Performance comparisons are very dependent on what you test, but the 4700's performance is about the same as the F840c at [less] cost," claims Rothnie.

Celerra enhancements

At the high end, EMC is now packaging its Celerra NAS server with Symmetrix disk arrays in a single cabinet (up to 1.1TB internal capacity), in a configuration called Celerra SE.

More significantly, the company introduced HighRoad software, a data routing tool that automatically directs traffic requests to either a Celerra NAS server or a Symmetrix-based SAN, depending on whether the request is a small file or a large-block data transfer. The technology separates mechanisms for control actions and data delivery.

The HighRoad code runs on attached host servers that issue NFS and CIFS requests. Large data transfers are handled over the storage area network (SAN), while smaller transfers are served directly by the Celerra NAS box. HighRoad software intercepts NFS or CIFS requests and passes them on to the Celerra server, which is equipped with enhanced code.

According to the Enterprise Storage Group's Duplessie, "HighRoad is the first valid example of the convergence of file and block data in a common architecture, where intelligence dictates the fastest method of data delivery."

HighRoad effectively combines the file-sharing benefits of NAS and the high- performance advantages of SANs. "The SAN/NAS debate is over," claims EMC's Rothnie.

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EMC purchases CrosStor for $300M

EMC's recent acquisition of South Plainfield, NJ-based CrosStor Software, for approximately $300 million, was designed to augment the company's midrange network- attached storage (NAS) offerings while enabling the convergence of NAS and storage area network (SAN) technologies.

At the same time, the acquisition was seen as potentially bad news for CrosStor's existing licensees-including Auspex, Connex, Hewlett-Packard, and MTI-all of which now compete with EMC in the midrange NAS market. Although EMC has stated it will honor all existing licensing agreements between CrosStor and its OEMs, analysts say it is likely that some vendors will shop around for alternative NAS partners or step up their efforts on the Linux front as an alternative to dealing with EMC on an OEM basis.

John Webster, a senior analyst with the Illuminata consulting group in Nashua, NH, predicts EMC's acquisition of CrosStor will have the following effects on the midrange NAS market:

  • A chilling effect on OEM sales of NAS software;
  • A possible slowdown of OEM deals with small storage players; and
  • A steadying of NAS prices instead of continuing price declines, as barriers to market entry become higher.

In addition to its NAS software, Cros-Stor has developed software technology that will allow the convergence of NAS and SANs. This technology has been submitted to the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA).

This article was originally published on January 01, 2001