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Microsoft Powers Up NAS Play

The enhanced version of Microsoft Corp.'s (Nasdaq: MSFT) dedicated NAS software may have switched names in midstream -- again -- but the companys attack on Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) remains right on course and seems to be gaining speed (see Microsoft Intros Win Storage Server 2003 and Microsoft Gets NASty).

Just over a month after launching its storage-rich Windows Server 2003 platform, Microsoft today announced the Windows Storage Server 2003 operating system for NAS (see Windows Soaks Up Storage). The product, which was first named Server Appliance Kit (SAK), then Windows Powered NAS, has received an overhaul using the Windows Server 2003 operating system, and is ready to take on any NAS environment, the company asserts.

Claude Lorenson, product manager in Microsoft’s enterprise storage division, says the name change is meant to emphasize the product's alignment with the Window's server system.

That’s a good thing to emphasize, says Dennis Martin, an analyst at the Evaluator Group. "Certainly having it come into the Windows server family makes it a lot more organized," he says. "This is based on an operating system people are already familiar with, [and] it plugs into existing Microsoft management."

Microsoft’s announcement could be another installment of bad news for NAS king NetApp, which has long enjoyed an iron grip on the high end of the $5.2 billion NAS market. Microsoft is "still not targeting the high, high end," says Enterprise Storage Group Inc. analyst Nancy Marrone. "But the key thing is that they are creeping up... They’re moving closer and closer into the larger workgroups... NetApp should be watching them closely."

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