Dell, NAI Ship Flexible NAS Units

Dell Computer Corp. and Network Appliance Inc. are honing their respective NAS initiatives with new, flexible hardware.

Dell Computer Corp. and Network Appliance Inc. are honing their respective NAS initiatives with new, flexible hardware.

The products from both vendors give IT managers a greater choice of network-attached storage technology, which is more flexible, as they can be easily installed on networks. In addition, users can access data regardless of the operating system or hardware it resides on. The new NAS products also allow IT managers to more easily scale capacity compared with the competing technology of SANs (storage area networks).

NAS market leader Network Appliance rolled out a low-end platform called the F85, which replaces the F720, scales to 648GB and comes with a dual 10/100G-bps Ethernet option.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company is also replacing its F760 device with the F820, which scales to 3 terabytes. In addition, it is introducing the F820c, which scales to 6 terabytes.

A key difference between the new products and those theyre replacing is the type of chips Network Appliance has chosen to use. The F720 worked on a Compaq Computer Corp. 600MHz Alpha, whereas the F85 contains an Intel Corp. 866MHz chip. In the case of the F820, its predecessors 600MHz Alpha chip will be replaced with an Intel 733MHz Pentium III.

In addition, Network Appliance introduced the C3100 caching server, which offers a 486GB capacity and helps customers distribute data stored on a central server to caches of information across the Internet.

Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, unveiled a family of PowerVault NAS products, aimed at small to midsize businesses as well as workgroups and departments.

Customers such as Timothy Catlin, chief technology officer for Netcentives Inc., prefer Dells NAS offerings to Network Appliances because, they said, Dells need less administrative overhead. Thus far, Netcentives has deployed less than a terabyte of NAS capacity but expects to increase that amount.

"We are just starting to deploy them in our environment, in our remote offices and for smaller workgroups," said Catlin, in San Francisco. "We use SANs in our production and operational environments rather than our corporate environment."

Dell officials said the PowerVault 735N, a midrange system, can be installed in 15 minutes and has a range of 144GB to 1.44 terabytes when clustered with three enclosures.

The devices support a customized Windows 2000 kernel that focuses only on file sharing. Working with Microsoft Corp., Dell engineered the 735N around Windows but excluded extra operating system features such as Web hosting, a virtual private network server and network node balancing, Dell officials said.

The 735N supports other platforms, such as Unix, Linux, Mac OS, NetWare and HTTP for Web clients.