Storage vendor LaCie this week took the wraps off a new product line, the LaCie Ethernet Disk, an entry-level network-attached storage unit. A first for the company in the NAS department, the device is also one of the first in the industry to run Microsofts Windows XP Embedded OS.
Due to ship in April, the Ethernet Disk will offer customers a flexible platform for file sharing, the company said. The line will include capacities of 80GB, 160GB, 200GB and 500GB and cost $599, $799, $999 and $1,499, respectively.
With a nod to the companys long history in the content-creation market, the Ethernet Disk also offers a 1394, or FireWire 400, interface for expansion. The port will let customers add additional external storage to the system or even a tape backup unit.
Each device comes with 128MB of RAM and includes a parallel port for a network printer, a video port for a terminal, and a USB keyboard. The system also offers a PCI slot for an optional Gigabit Ethernet interface. It employs a Web interface for configuration and supports Linux, Mac and Windows workgroups.
According to LaCie North America CEO Scott Philips, the Ethernet Disk will be aimed at small businesses and corporate departments that lack a technical support staff. For this reason, the company is avoiding the network-attached storage label for the line.
"When you hear the word NAS, the audience changes—everyone thinks of that technical guru in the back room," Philips said. "This is inexpensive, plug-and-play storage for anyone who wants to get up and running with file sharing."
However, IT managers will be more familiar with the Ethernet Disks 1U rackmount footprint. Philips said all of LaCies desktop hard drives and other storage products such as its forthcoming Big Disk line of high-capacity FireWire 800 drives, have been designed for rack mounting as well as stand-alone placement.
Instead of running the usual Linux, the Ethernet Disk uses the embedded version of Windows XP. The company said the device may be the first to market using the package, which includes many of the familiar standard services, including support for FireWire storage.
LaCie Vice President of Engineering Mike Mihalik said cost was a factor in choosing the embedded OS. While the Windows licensing fee costs more than the free Linux OS, the embedded version of XP provided more base-line support for the features LaCie wanted for the product. Unless a Linux distribution supported those technologies, the company would have had to develop custom code. In addition, Mihalik said, customers were more comfortable purchasing the "known entity" of Windows XP.