ONStor Adds Its Own Back End

Adds storage to its gateways to compete with EMC and NetApp

August 28, 2006

4 Min Read
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ONStor is becoming a full-fledged NAS vendor.

The supplier today launched Pantera, its first complete NAS appliance, which is being sold in a bundle with its Bobcat NAS gateway. (See ONStor Hits NAS Gas.) Pantera uses the same EverON clustered NAS software as the Bobcat, which supports NFS and CIFS protocols and snapshots. The difference is, Pantera includes back-end storage for a complete NAS system.

ONStor CEO Bob Miller hopes Pantera will make his company more competitive with NAS market leaders Network Appliance and EMC. NetApp and EMC sell NAS as gateways or integrated appliances, as does BlueArc -- like ONStor, a privately held firm that is generally considered No. 3 among general-purpose NAS vendors.

In the past, Miller has been critical of NetApp and EMC for creating NAS systems that did not work with other vendors storage. But over the past year, NetApp has been casting its gateways as virtualization devices that support disk arrays from most other vendors. (See NetApp Makes Virtual Upgrade.)

Now, ONStor is adopting that tactic in reverse.Miller says ONStor’s clustered system will enable it to scale better than NetApp and EMC NAS at a much lower price. Pantera systems are available with SAS and SATA drives. Pricing starts at $40,000 for 6 Tbytes and Miller says 12-Tbyte appliances begin at under $100,000.

ONStor will continue to sell the Bobcat gateways separately for use with any vendors’ storage systems, Miller says. The vendor will maintain its partnerships with 3PAR, Compellent, Nexsan, and Xiotech to sell integrated NAS-SAN systems that compete with NetApp’s unified storage. (See Vendors Play Integration Duet and ONStor, Nexsan Deliver NAS.)

Miller says ONStor has been picking up about 25 customers per quarter and has close to 200, but his thinking has changed about their buying patterns. He says more and more customers are looking for an appliance, not a standalone gateway, because they typically don't have disk arrays and do not want to use two vendors for a NAS. Until Pantera, customers who bought Bobcats and did not have disk to use spent money with other vendors that Miller thinks could better go to ONStor.

"Eighty percent of our customers said when they bought ONStor they bought new storage, even if they had existing storage available," Miller says. "Historically, people spend one dollar on the gateway and three dollars on storage. We found it frustrating to watch us get one dollar when we did all the hard work, and watch the customer who wanted to buy storage from us spend three dollars on somebody else.”

Analyst Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group estimates that gateways will account for about 70 percent of ONStor's sales going forward, but he says having the integrated system will prevent it from losing deals."I'm surprised it's taken them three years in the market to arrive at this conclusion," Taneja says. "I think this is a step in the right direction. Companies sometimes get a jolt, and that's how they learn."

The argument that drove ONStor to its new strategy is illustrated by the case of Chris Ferry, director of operations for MyPhotoAlbum.com. He purchased a Pantera system with 15 Tbytes to store millions of photos uploaded onto his Website by registered users. He had been using an ONStor Bobcat gateway with a Winchester storage system for a year but finds it cheaper and easier to have an integrated system.

"I'd rather go through one vendor," he says. "We had an issue with Winchester when setting up with ONStor. We had to call Winchester and ONStor, and go back and forth with both. It was time consuming."

Once he decided to go with an integrated NAS, Ferry says he quickly ruled out the prospects of ever using Network Appliance and EMC. He says the final price tag for storage could have been twice as much with those vendors.

"I'm not a big fan of EMC or NetApp," he says. "There are a lot of hidden costs; the software licensing costs are outrageous. A lot of people are trying to sell me Windows NAS, but I'm not a big Windows fan either, so those people were shot out of the water."— Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

  • 3PAR Inc.

  • BlueArc Corp.

  • Compellent Technologies Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Nexsan Technologies Inc.

  • ONStor Inc.

  • Taneja Group

  • Xiotech Corp.

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