NetDevice NAS Shows Off Flexibility

IT managers looking for flexible and inexpensive NAS products should consider the NetDevice NAS from Novell Inc.

IT managers looking for flexible and inexpensive NAS products should consider the NetDevice NAS from Novell Inc.

NetDevice NAS, part of a new breed of software-based network-attached storage systems for the midrange storage market, makes it easy to convert almost any hardware platform into a storage appliance. Not only can IT managers choose the computer hardware on which to base their appliance, but they also can choose specific components—processors, memory, hard drives and NICs. This gives buyers the freedom to custom-build a NAS appliance using industry-standard server hardware.

The NetDevice NAS software package was released in October. Prices start at $1,799 for a limited 50GB storage license or $3,499 per NAS server for a license without a storage limit. Even with the current server price wars among major vendors, the overall cost of NetDevice NAS can be significantly lower than buying a midrange NAS appliance, which costs anywhere from $10,000 to more than $100,000.

NetDevice NAS also competes with appliances that use Microsoft Corp.s Server Appliance Kit 2.0, including devices from Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and IBM. NetDevice NAS is more flexible, however, because it can be installed on a bare-bones Intel Corp.-based server, whereas the Microsoft SAK requires that Windows 2000 be installed.

eWeek Labs recommends Net- Device NAS to organizations with heterogeneous networks and small IT staffs to look after them; NetDevice NAS will integrate especially well into NetWare environments because of its ability to provide eDirectory services.

NetDevice NAS can be used only on hardware systems from Novell-certified vendors. (Go to for a complete list of certified hardware.)

At minimum, the NetDevice NAS requires a system with a 600MHz Intel-compatible processor, NetWare-certified PCI or on-motherboard network adapters, and 384MB of RAM. The software also requires a minimum storage capacity of 9GB, and we recommend using RAID disk subsystems and storage enclosures to maximize scalability and data integrity.

We found NetDevice NAS much easier to set up than most file servers, but its not as simple to roll out as plug-and-play workgroup NAS appliances such as the Quantum Corp. Snap Server. However, unlike most NAS appliances, NetDevice NAS can scale with industry-standard hardware, so there are no vendor-specific upgrade lockdowns. NetDevice NAS also supports NetWares file systems and directory services.

In tests, we set up NetDevice NAS using a Dell PowerEdge 2450 server with dual 733MHz Pentium III processors. The only prep work we had to do was to configure the RAID volumes. After that, the NetDevice NAS installation CD-ROM took over and completed installation in less than 30 minutes.

NetDevice NAS uses a stripped-down version of the NetWare 5.1 operating system optimized for file services. Novell has retained key components of NetWare, including the Novell Storage System; built-in Novell eDirectory (so the NAS can provide or integrate with installed NetWare directory services); Web administration; and Native File Protocol for file sharing in mixed networks supporting Novell, Windows, Unix and Linux clients.

We were disappointed, however, that Novell left out AppleTalk for Macintosh clients in this release. The Web-based DAV (Distributed Authoring and Versioning) protocol used for Web collaborations and LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) are also not supported in this release. Novell officials said all three will be supported in the next release.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at [email protected]