BlueArc Titan to Battle Giants

Startup strives for mainstream acceptance with faster NAS system

January 27, 2004

2 Min Read
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Armed with a wad of cash and a new storage system, BlueArc Corp. is looking to break out of the high-end niche into the mainstream NAS market.

BlueArc today announced the Titan, a NAS device with a single file system that grows to 256 TBytes and transfers data at 5 Gbit/s. The file system has been tweaked to partition data into virtual volumes, which means BlueArcs device can read small files better than the vendor's previous offering, which supported 98 Tbytes of storage but wasn't equipped for small files.

BlueArc's older product found a home mostly in high-performance computing, life sciences, and digital storage environments. The vendor hopes the Titan can win it a place among traditional enterprise NAS systems.

“They’re expanding beyond the niche market they’ve been in,” says analyst Arun Taneja, founder of the Taneja Group. “It gives them an opportuntity to go into markets where they had no prayer before.”

Besides the new file system, BlueArc uses a chassis-based architecture that lets customers swap four application-specific blades for flexibility and performance gains down the road. For instance, companies can exchange a 4-Gbit/s blade for a 10-Gbit/s blade when the higher rates become available. BlueArc CEO Gianluca Rattazzi says the Titan’s system will eventually support 20-Gbit/s speeds over the next two years by swapping out blades.“We looked out five to seven years and said, ‘What trends are coming?’ If you decide you want 10-gig a year from now, you just replace a blade,” Rattazzi says. "We support 4-gig and 10-gig; it’s just different blades.”

This modular approach should help BlueArc in its mission. "They’re trying to bust out of the mold of being a high-end NAS player,” says analyst Mike Fisch of The Clipper Group Inc. By adding modular blades along with the faster file system, BlueArc will offer an alternative to enterprises that formerly had to buy multiple low-end drives.

The broader market space brings broader competition, however. Where BlueArc went head-to-head with other startups Panasas Inc.

and Isilon Systems in the high end, it now competes with NAS titans Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) and EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC). (See Sands Shift Under NAS Market.) Fortunately for BlueArc, it is well-equipped for a marketing fight, after raising $157 million in venture capital (see BlueArc Wallows in $47M Haul).

“I don’t know of many other companies that have raised that type of cash,” Taneja says. “It gives them a good cushion as they go into that market."

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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