Storage vendors are starting to take the small and midsize business market more seriously, making storage networking technologies such as iSCSI and Fibre Channel more accessible.
Until now, most SMBs have been stuck using inflexible DAS (direct-attached storage) technologies such as SCSI, eSATA (external Serial ATA), USB 2.0 and FireWire.
But with the next generation of products entering the market, SMBs will be able to reap the benefits of networked storage.
Targeting companies in the 50- to 1,000-employee range, storage vendor Network Appliance in June launched its StoreVault division.
The first product debuted by the division was the StoreVault S500, a storage system with a competitive feature set (including snapshots and hardware redundancy) and a highly aggressive starting price point of $5,000 (for 1TB of raw storage).
With the ability to scale up to 3TB in raw capacity, the StoreVault S500 allows SMB customers to consolidate storage resources and take advantage of newer data protection technologies, such as disk-to-disk backup.
NetApps well-known snapshot technology, which is storage-efficient and supports as many as 255 snapshots, is an important feature in the StoreVault S500. Using this snapshot technology, typically found in higher-end products, IT managers at smaller companies will be able to quickly roll back volumes if data gets corrupted or accidentally deleted, allowing them to minimize downtime.
The StoreVault S500s dual-parity RAID technology, which can protect data volumes in the event of multiple disk failures, is another technology not often seen in SMB products.
Considering that most low-end solutions are leaning on low-cost SATA drives, eWEEK Labs hopes other vendors follow NetApps lead and make dual-parity RAID a standard option.
NetApps SnapMirror technology, which allows customers to replicate data across WAN links, did not make its way into the StoreVault S500 feature set.
But, with support for NAS (network-attached storage), iSCSI and Fibre Channel (the latter as of fall 2006), the StoreVault S500 will fit into many environments.
Microsoft is another company that will have a major impact on the SMB storage market. Microsofts Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, which runs on NAS storage appliances, will add iSCSI target functionality, posing a challenge to the StoreVault S500.
We expect to see appliances with iSCSI target support starting next month; hardware vendors including IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell sell appliances based on Windows Storage Server 2003 R2.
EMC, with partner Dell, is offering the Fibre Channel-based Clariion AX150 and its AX150i iSCSI twin for SMBs at prices starting at $5,900. The entry-level Clariion AX150 comes equipped with three 250GB drives and can hold up to 12 drives.
EMCs Insignia brand of SMB software products, which includes Retrospect backup and VisualSRM, complements these storage systems with data protection and storage management capabilities.
Unlike NetApp, which is climbing down from the enterprise environment into the SMB space, innovative startups such as Zetera are trying to move up from the consumer class.
Zeteras proprietary SOIP (storage over IP) technology has interesting scalability features, which give IT managers the ability to add nodes on the fly to increase storage capacity.
Zeteras technology is allowing partners to create storage appliances with sub-$5,000 prices, usually the realm of low-performance NAS appliances and DAS units.
For example, Bell Microproducts Hammer Z-Box, recently reviewed by eWeek Labs (see "Z-Box: High-performance storage for SMBs" at eweek.com), is based on the Zetera technology and is priced starting at $1,299.
Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Storage Vendors Think Small(er)
Many storage vendors are offering, or preparing to offer, storage networking products for SMBs.
* Adaptec Adaptecs Snap Server line of storage appliances is powered by Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processors and can be scaled up by adding more disk shelves. (www.snapsolutions.com)
* NetApp NetApps new StoreVault S500 array provides much of the functionality seen in high-end NetApp filers, but at a starting price of $5,000. (www.storevault.com)
* Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 will soon be adding iSCSI target support, making appliances running this operating system more attractive; expect similar offerings from vendors such as IBM and HP in the near future. (www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/wss2003/default.mspx)
* Zetera Zeteras SOIP technology brings SAN functionality down to the SMB level, but it is also proprietary. Zetera needs to add key technologies such as snapshots to stay competitive with other offerings. Right now, though, appliances based on SOIP—with their low pricing and good performance—should be highly competitive in the low end of the SMB market. (www.zetera.com)
Source: eWEEK Labs