NetApp Casts Wider Net

Launches two new SAN/NAS appliances and new software for regulatory compliance

September 23, 2003

4 Min Read
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Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) is preparing to launch a range of new products this week, as it attempts to ward off the recent competitive onslaught from EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT).

Microsoft officially launched its Windows Storage Server 2003 two weeks ago, with EMC trotting along at its side -- leading several industry analysts to suggest that NetApp could be facing its most serious challenge to date (see Microsoft Raises NAS Roof). Tomorrow, however, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company is getting ready to fight back on several levels.

For starters, NetApp will officially announce its FAS200 entry-level storage appliance series. The company actually started shipping the FAS250 back in May, but will be announcing a new family member as well, the FAS270 (see Report: Most Storage Startups Flop).

The appliances, which are priced starting at $10,000 and $20,000 respectively, are aimed at departments and remote offices of NetApps existing Fortune 500 customers, as well as new midtier customers.

“In many ways, the requirements in remote offices are more onerous than in the data center,” says Suresh Vasudevan, NetApp’s senior director of software product marketing. “They don’t always have storage administrators [on site].” By plugging into a FAS250 or FAS270 companies can more easily centralize the backup from different offices and departments, he says. “This gives them the ability to do away with remote office tape backup completely.”Enterprise Storage Group Inc. analyst Peter Gerr says the offering makes sense: “This is a good tool for consolidating. It’s great for reining in a lot of orphan systems out there.”

And since the new appliances run on the same operating system as all of NetApp’s high-end filers, customers can scale up from the FAS250 to the 270 and all the way up to the company’s FAS900 filer series by simply replacing the controller, Vasudevan claims. “They can enter through the 250, but can scale all the way through to our high-end filers,” he says. “This enhances our ability to penetrate remote locations better than we’ve done in the past.”

In addition to filling out NetApp’s entry-level portfolio, the company hopes the new appliances will help extend its reach into the SAN market. The FAS250, which NetApp says already has several dozen customers, is designed for both NAS and iSCSI SAN environments, according to Vasudevan. The FAS 270, meanwhile, which is expected to start shipping in a couple months, will also work in Fibre Channel SAN environments.

NetApp is also extending its overall SAN support to include Linux, HP-UX, and AIX drivers, in addition to its current support for Solaris and Windows. The company’s SAN customers will be able to purchase an attach kit for each of the new SAN environments in a couple of months. Vasudevan says the kits will cost less than $10,000 each, but points out that the final price could be significantly higher, depending on whether or not a company needs to buy new filers or make other changes to its infrastructure.

“This is about penetrating the mainstream data center further,” he says.The data center isn’t the only area NetApp wants to penetrate further. The company is also hoping to take a large bite out of the subsystem compliance market, which today is dominated by EMC’s Centerra. NetApp, which launched its SnapLock Compliance WORM (write once/read many) technology to its NearStore appliance in April, will soon offer the feature as a separate software package (see NetApp Adds WORM to NearStore).

“This is certainly a response to EMC’s Centera product,” says Enterprise Storage Group's Gerr. “I think [putting this on software] offers a really good investment protection message. It can also help simplify the end user decision on when to deploy disk-based WORM storage.”

The NetApp WORM technology, which up until now has only been available on a separate dedicated appliance, allows companies to create a separate, secure volume for documents that fall under regulatory constraints. To ensure compliance, the technology protects documents in this separate volume from being erased or tampered with.

NetApp claims that its new software package can be loaded onto any of NetApp’s existing filers and coexist with other, noncompliant data.

“Many of our customers already had filers deployed,” Vasudevan says. “They didn’t want to buy an entire system for compliant data. They wanted software.”— Eugénie Larson, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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