Big or Little Boxes?

eLABorations: Auspex's future may rest on the unassuming NSc3000 Network Storage Controller and similar "small" solutions.

From a strict name-association point of view, the word "Auspex" has always been related to "big black box" in my storage-crazy mind.

Auspex Systems Inc. has been around since 1987 and is widely seen as a pioneer in the NAS space, for the most part providing Unix servers with high-speed file shares.

During my visit to Auspexs labs in Santa Clara, Calif., last week, it became apparent that the fate of Auspex no longer rests on its monstrous black NAS units but on a relatively small an unassuming box the company announced last month, the NSc3000 Network Storage Controller.

There are two major factors that make the NSc3000 an extremely important product. First of all, economies of scale favor the big guy, and there is no way Auspex can be considered a big guy when gigantic companies like Network Appliance and IBM stomp around the same neighborhood.

On the optimistic side, with the hard economic times, vendors are finally trying to give customers the convergence tools they need to take advantage of the storage they already own, instead of forcing a forklift upgrade down their throats.

Like most vendors, Auspex recognized that although SAN and NAS have existed as complementary solutions during the last few years, IT managers would prefer to leverage current infrastructure than build anew.

The NSc3000 is essentially a storage gateway that seamlessly takes in disk resources from a SAN and serves them to clients NAS-style (using NFS and CIFS). The beauty of this solution is that instead of asking a customer to buy a bunch of new NAS boxes, Auspex can sell the NSc3000 to accounts that already have storage from its competitors, which should help the company squeeze into accounts it had no chance of getting in the past.

Although Auspexs system is one of the first we have seen, it is only a matter of time before similar solutions start popping up. Hopefully, Auspexs head start will get it a little bit breathing room before the stampede of competitors catches up. ´

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at