Snap Preps NAS/SAN Combo

Snap is readying two hardware devices that run NAS and SANs simultaneously.

Complexity and high prices have long combined to keep midsize companies from adopting NAS and SAN technologies. But Snap Appliance Inc., the recent spinoff of Quantum Corp., hopes to change that.

Snap is planning to launch two hardware devices this year that can simultaneously run file-based network-attached storage or block-based storage area networks, according to company President and CEO Eric Kelly. And while theyll support the same multiterabyte capacity as low-end products from enterprise storage providers such as EMC Corp. and Network Appliance Inc., theyll cost far less, Kelly said.

"What were trying to do is provide a true appliance," Kelly said, from the companys San Jose, Calif., headquarters. "We will be providing it on our Linux platform."

Snap plans to target large departments and data centers of organizations where it already dominates with low-end NAS in workgroups and remote offices, Kelly said. The as-yet-unnamed products will cost about $20,000 per terabyte and scale to about 8 terabytes, he said.

The first of the two forthcoming NAS/SAN devices, due this summer, will use Fibre Channel drives. The second, due later in the year, will use Serial ATA drives. Both use core technology from Broadband Storage Inc., a startup Snap acquired in October, after Snaps spinoff from Quantum. Both will connect to networks with the users choice of Fibre Channel or Gigabit Ethernet, officials said.

While some potential users approved of the Snap road map, they were cautious about Snaps ability to execute on high-level reliability, support and application partnerships.

Bill Columbus, a user of Snaps entry-level products, said hes long outgrown them and needs a higher-end offering. But before buying the new products, "theyre going to have to have their system work flawlessly," said Columbus, vice president of technical sales at AValive, a division of Triangle Visual Interactive Inc., in Wilmington, N.C. Although systems such as EMCs cost more, "EMCs got a pretty good reputation. ... Theres just a perception of who it is," he said.

Sam Daniel, director of IT for The Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation Inc., plans to keep his 3-terabyte Network Appliance system, regardless of Snaps lower prices. "Its not only storage that Im looking at; its also the type of service and support for the other products I have. Its not just an isolated environment," said Daniel, in New York. The foundation runs an Oracle Corp. database and a Web server, and support from Network Appliance typically requires one phone call, he said.

Snap officials said they agree with such assessments and are working to ramp up the companys support infrastructure. Officials said the internal user support investment will be doubled, and the external investment will increase by half.

In addition, Snap has hired consultants to advise the company on the needs of high-end users, they said. Also, Snap is already a partner of backup and management vendors Computer Associates International Inc. and Legato Systems Inc., officials said.

While Snap makes moves toward the midsize customer segment, others are moving in on Snaps low-end NAS turf, particularly Iomega Corp. and Linksys Group Inc.

Iomega, in the second half of this year, will launch a NAS device with approximately 1.5 to 2 terabytes that will cost no more than $25,000 per tera- byte, said company officials, in San Diego. Also in the first half, Iomega will add Gigabit Ethernet connections to several of its models, according to the company.

Meanwhile, Linksys, of Irvine, Calif., this year will add WAN support for its Instant Gigadrive product, enabling the NAS device to be accessed across the Internet, officials said.