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The Coming Wave Of Plug-And-Play Storage

Building custom storage equipment has never been easier thanks to the development of plug-and-play technology that turns an ordinary low-cost, industry-standard server into a storage appliance.

At least three vendors are now selling storage-specific operating systems embedded as firmware on a bootable module. The modules plug into an IDE port on nearly any standard server, turning the server into a NAS or iSCSI appliance.

After the module, known as a "dongle," is plugged into the IDE port, the installer turns the server on to boot the storage operating system, which in turn automatically configures the server as a storage appliance. No other software or storage media is required.

While the technology has been around for several years, the growth in the custom storage market and the entry of two new vendors into the U.S. custom-system channel over the past year are setting the stage for more widespread adoption, system builders say.

System builders that have tested the dongles say they make building storage appliances much easier. "This really opens the floodgate for resellers to build their own powerful storage systems," said James Huang, product marketing specialist for Amax Information Technologies, Fremont, Calif.

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