Storage Appliances for Lean Times


Just about everyone in the IT business realizes that the most annoying aspect of the current recession is that while profits are down, data requirements are up. That makes it difficult to purchase and provision the storage that is desperately needed to meet not only business and competitive needs, but legal ones as well.

But it's also the reason why we're seeing a new generation of low-cost, mostly appliance-based storage options aimed not so much at smaller firms looking for ready-made storage, but larger organizations looking to bolster their current arrays with as little impact to the bottom line as possible.

PowerFile's new Hybrid Storage Appliance is a case in point. The device uses a proprietary "distributed performance architecture" to provide scalability into the petabytes for long-term fixed content applications. The company wants you to consider moving data from Tier 1 or 2 disks to an HSA, which not only costs less upfront, but eliminates the cost of regular data migrations. Each HSA consists of a dual quad-core system controller, a 12-48 TB cache array and a 25 TB library that holds up to 12 Blu-ray drives.

Networking firm Netgear is also getting into the game, coming out with the ReadyNAS 2100 rack-mounted storage appliance that offers simultaneous NAS and SAN functionality, as well as file-sharing and virtualization capability. It also provides for uninterrupted capacity expansion, plus managed ports for network redundancy. The system utilizes the company's X-Change storage modules, plus the ReadyNas Remote tool for access from branch offices.

Storage appliances are also drawing in firms with little or no hardware experience. For example, a company called i365, which specializes in software and SaaS offerings, has come out with a preconfigured backup and recovery appliance called the EVault Plug-n-Protect. The company uses standard hardware and storage, such as Dell servers with a Nexsan RAID, to run its EVault software plus System Restore and Real Time Protection packages. Sizes range from 6 to 36 TB at a cost the company says is about 40 percent less than purchasing the components separately.

Even giants like Microsoft are starting to notice the appliance market. Along with the Windows 7 and Server 2008 releases, the company just issued the RTM version of Windows Storage Server 2008 to OEMs. The company says it expects to see fully configured hardware systems by the fall, souped up with the extra file and storage capabilities the software provides, not to mention single-instance storage deduplication and a new iSCSI software target that enables both block storage and file service on the same appliance.

Difficult times often bring out the biggest innovations, and 2009 is no exception. Fortunately, saving money never goes out of style, so even after the bad times are past, this and subsequent generations of storage appliances will provide solutions for those seeking quick storage without a lot of complexity.