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F5 Launches ARX File Virtualization Devices Targeted At SMBs

F5 Networks has added two models to its line of ARX file virtualization hardware devices, the ARX1500 and the ARX2500, which are intended for small to midsize businesses. The devices act as a front end to an organization’s data storage, which makes it easier for users to move files around. The devices also include data management features such as automated storage tiering and global namespace. The ARX1500 is targeted as a starting device for smaller organizations, while the ARX2500 is intended for midsize organizations and is the second member of the family to support 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

"It looks like they rounded out the portfolio of products they have," says Michael Raposa, senior director of infrastructure at iNDEMAND, a New York-based provider of pay-per-view and video-on-demand content for cable industry vendors such as Comcast. The company, which has been in business for 25 years, is using the ARX 4000, which gives it up to 300 TBytes of usable space, he says. He is particularly interested in the 2500, both for its size--"the 1500 is a little small for our use case"--and its support for 10 Gigabit Ethernet, because that’s what the 160-person company is using, he says. "We’re still under our support contract, but when it comes due, it'll be the 2500 we’ll be looking at," he says.

The purpose of the ARX2500 is to provide a model that supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet at a lower cost than the existing ARX4000, although it offers a 1 Gigabit Ethernet port, as well, says Renny Shen, product marketing manager for the Seattle-based company. Compared with the company’s previous midrange offering, the ARX2000, the 2500 also offers a smaller form factor, a similar price point and twice the throughput, he says.

As for the ARX1500, it is limited by software to a particular scale, meaning that it is easy for smaller organizations to migrate and get more access, he says. In addition, compared with the company’s previous low-end ARX500 model (which will be discontinued at some point), the ARX1500 offers four times the network connectivity and
throughput, supporting up to five times as many users, as well as redundant power supplies, he says.

The challenge in this space has been, in a lot of ways, the problems of file server proliferation going downmarket into smaller companies or businesses that hadn’t thought about it before, says Rick Villars, research VP at IDC. The challenge that F5 has dealt with thus far is that its systems were priced for bigger companies, he adds. The announcement is good in the sense that it will provide more flexible options for customers, but F5 continues to need to work because virtualization projects tend to be vulnerable to "project creep" and become increasingly complex, he says.

Prices for the devices, which are available now, range from $30,000 to $200,000. The ARX1500 requires that users have only one of the devices; for other models, users are required to have a matching pair.

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