NAS in a Time of Need

Arthur Cole

The storage industry has taken its lumps in this recession just like everybody else. However, a close look at the latest trends reveals that some areas are doing quite well, thank you very much.

In particular, low-cost storage appliances are seeing brisk business, a testament to the fact that enterprises large and small are keenly feeling the crunch of increasing data loads but are less willing to invest in major capacity expansions while the recovery is still very iffy.

The latest numbers bear this out. IDC reports that revenues from full disk arrays fell 18.7 percent to $5.7 billion in the second quarter. And while the overall number of petabytes delivered gained some 15 percent to 2,345, that's still pretty anemic compared to past performance. Compare that to entry-level SAN systems, which gained by more than half, and mid-range NAS devices, which picked up more than 20 percent over the same period last year.

Interest in storage appliances is driving a renewed effort to both increase capacities and add many of the enterprise-level features found in top storage platforms. For example, Iomega, which has access to many of those technologies now that it is part of EMC, just rolled out the four-bay StorCenter ix-4200d appliance, which packs features like VMware virtualization, advanced data protection and replication. It can hold up to 8 TB on four hot-swappable SATA II drives, which can be configured as a RAID 5 array. It also has the ability to run in mixed Mac and PC environments and has an iSCSI mode for integration with IP networks.

QNAP has a pair of four-drive devices: the standalone TS-419P and the rack-mounted TS-419U, both of which can accommodate either 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch SATA drives. They also sport 1.2 GHz processing and 512 MB of DDR2 RAM, as well as dual GE ports plus four additional USB 2.0 ports for cascading multiple systems on the network. And both devices are equally at home with OS X, Linux, Unix and Windows.

Meanwhile, Pivot3 is using its NAS capabilities to further decrease enterprises' need for multiple servers. The company has bolstered its Serverless Computing platform by adding support for Intel's Nehalem architecture, allowing its integrated server design to compete effectively with the newest server hardware. By integrating virtual servers into its appliances, Pivot3 offers the ability to host server applications directly, providing direct access to aggregated IP SAN networks and available virtual management systems.

Nobody can argue that an appliance, or even a whole army of appliances, can replace a working storage array. But they can provide that something extra at a time when provisioning an entirely new storage platform isn't in the cards.

And if they can offer top-end enterprise features to boot, all the better.

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