EMC Challenges NetApp NAS

New midrange offerings aim at toppling market leader on price and performance

August 30, 2004

3 Min Read
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EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) is taking a run at Network Appliance Inc.s (Nasdaq: NTAP) midrange NAS by offering price and certain performance enhancements, although it still lacks a key piece that simplifies file management.

EMC is launching configurations at each end of the midrange -- the low-end Celerra NS500 and high-end Celerra NS704G. And it announced support for iSCSI in its upgraded DART operating system.

The low-end system also competes with the IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) NAS 500 Gateway announced last week, but EMC’s real target is NAS market leader Network Appliance (see IBM Turns a New NAS Leaf – Again).

EMC has priced its systems below NetApp’s and claims a strong performance advantage, but NetApp and EMC have skirmished over each other’s performance claims in the past, and smart users are skeptical of published results (see NetApp, EMC in Benchmark Brawl).

Although NetApp still has the NAS lead, according to market research firm IDC, EMC says it is gaining momentum (see NetApp Touts IDC Figures). EMC senior director of NAS, Tom Joyce, claims EMC’s NAS revenue last quarter climbed 16 percent from the previous quarter and 40 percent year over year. One reason for the growth is customers are increasingly connecting NAS gateways to EMC’s Clariion and Symmetrix arrays.One clear edge EMC takes with its 704G is the ability to use three active file servers with one standby, or two active and two standby servers in its four file-server configuration. NetApp’s four file-server GF960 only allows for a two-and-two configuration. Allowing for a third active file server gives improved performance while maintaining high availability, EMC says.

“I often wondered why NetApp stopped at two,” says analyst Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group. “EMC said ‘Why not go beyond that?’ ”

Overall, Taneja calls the EMC launch “a giant leap in terms of strengthening their midrange." But he says something's missing: global namespace, the ability to enable all servers to access a file using the same name. "Global namespace is the number one issue for administrators, because they’re sick of managing 300 NAS boxes as individual NAS boxes. EMC’s NAS solution is still incomplete until they include global namespace.”

NetApp purchased Spinnaker to acquire its global namespace file system; it also makes global namespace software from NuView Inc. available on some of its NAS systems (see NetApp Annexes Spinnaker, NuView Files Away Files, and NetApp Ships NuView NAS App). Others, such as NAS startup Panasas Inc., also offer global namespace (see Panasas Launches Clustered Linux NAS). Taneja and other insiders believe EMC will eventually have to follow NetApp’s lead.

EMC isn’t breaking ground with its support if iSCSI. NetApp has supported iSCSI on its NAS systems for more than a year, and Snap Appliance -- acquired by Adaptec Inc. (Nasdaq: ADPT) -- announced iSCSI support for NAS in April. (See Hotspots: Mixed Nuts?, NetApp Squares Off With Redmond, and NetApp Blitzes on iSCSI.)Joyce says there’s “a fair amount” of interest in iSCSI support that allows customers to handle block and file storage on the same system. He says most of the demand is from customers looking to consolidate direct-attached storage.

Pricing begins at $40,000 for the single server NS500 and $81,000 for the dual server configuration. The NS704G begins at $165,000. The systems are available today.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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