EMC, NetApp expand low-end storage lines

FRAMINGHAM (09/22/2003) - Some leading storage vendors are targeting small and midsize businesses with new low-end hardware and software. But the products are also attracting the attention of corporate IT managers who see them as a good fit for business units, workgroups or remote offices.

EMC Corp. Monday plans to release a pair of storage management applications for administering midrange disk arrays as well as Oracle, Sybase and SQL Server databases. The rollout includes an application for configuring and managing storage-area networks (SAN), plus a reporting tool that can monitor usage of storage resources.

Also today, Network Appliance Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif., is due to announce an entry-level series of storage servers that start at US$10,000. Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard Co. last week detailed plans to develop products and services for small and midsize companies, including versions of its StorageWorks devices tailored to such users.

For smaller IT shops, the new offerings provide a potential way out of direct-attached storage and into more efficient SAN or network-attached storage (NAS) installations.

Jim Draughn, manager of network operations at Acuity Lighting Group, a division of Atlanta-based Acuity Brands Inc., said the high cost of storage management software kept his unit from buying a SAN until EMC developed its VisualSAN management tool.

Easy to Use and Install

As a beta tester, Draughn has used VisualSAN for about six months to manage the process of backing up 150 Dell servers and an Oracle database to a 10TB SAN with two Clariion CX arrays and two Fibre Channel switches.

"We were looking for something cost-effective but that had a lot of features," Draughn said. "The GUIs were really easy to use and install, and we got it up and running with minimal training." He added that VisualSAN lets him take point-in-time snapshots of data so the information can be restored if it gets corrupted.

Similarly, Patrick O'Keefe, network information systems manager at the Arizona State Retirement System in Phoenix, said he bought one of NetApp's new FAS250 storage servers about six months ago as an early user in order to move from direct-attached storage to a SAN. O'Keefe is using the SAN setup to make snapshot copies of Oracle databases. "We can restore a database in less than five minutes with a snapshot, where before it took us seven hours," he said. "We got an ROI in four months just in time savings alone."

O'Keefe said the NetApp device also lets him access about 400,000 records and transfer data to retired state employees in Arizona in minutes vs. the two days it took with direct-attached storage.

Nigel Ball, vice president of small and medium business operations at HP's enterprise server and storage division, said the company will focus on upgrading its ProLiant servers and StorageWorks products for small and midsize companies. For example, HP earlier this month announced a Windows-based NAS device aimed at departmental and remote office applications.

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