IBM Turns a New NAS Leaf - Again

Months after bulking up its NAS offering, Big Blue ships a scaled-down model

August 25, 2004

2 Min Read
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IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has revamped its NAS gateway strategy yet again, looking to court small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

When Big Blue first announced its NAS 500 Gateway in January, the idea was to compete with enterprise systems from EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP). (See IBM Swings New NAS Gateway.) Today, though, it introduced a new option for the system: a single-processor, entry-level NAS gateway for SMBs.

The new NAS 500 Gateway is set for general availability Friday, with pricing starting at $30,000 -- compared to $50,000 for two-processor configurations.

The announcement comes as EMC is expected to launch its own NAS gateway next week.

Back in January, when IBM first announced the Gateway 500, it aimed the product at the upper end of the enterprise NAS roster. The move came seven months after the company killed off its low-end Windows-based NAS system (see IBM Kills Runts of NAS Litter).Today's announcement, according to at least one analyst, shows IBM's seen the error of its ways. It’s a rediscovery of lower-end NAS,” Illuminata Inc. analyst David Freund says of IBM's addition to its gateway family. “When [IBM] first announced the gateway, they were going to walk away from low-end NAS. They said, ‘It’s a commodity, we’re not going to play that game.’ ”

David Vaughn, IBM’s NAS product manager, says Big Blue isn’t backing off enterprise-class NAS but is looking to meet unexpected demand from SMBs.

He says customer feedback indicated buyers were willing to trade performance for price, as long as the systems had an upgrade path. Customers of the new single-processor NAS gateway can scale to two, four, or eight processors down the road.

“Frankly, what we offered before was overkill from a performance standpoint,” Vaughn says.

Translation: It cost too much. “SMBs need something more affordable,” Data Mobility Group senior analyst Dianne McAdam says. “IBM’s trying to find ways to bring the price down.”With the price reduction comes added risk, however: One processor also means a single point of failure.

“Customers have said, ‘We accept that,’ ” Vaughn says. “They can cluster two single-processor systems to get around it.”

IBM's new tack may not boost its competitive position in low-end NAS gateways. EMC and NetApp also offer single-processor systems. And a new feature IBM calls Mirror Write Consistency is also similar to offerings from these vendors.

IBM's MWC mirrors data from a data center to cheaper disk at a remote site. MWC writes data to the local disk at the same time it is sent across to the remote site. IBM claims the system is faster than synchronous and more reliable than asynchronous mirroring. EMC and NetApp have similar techniques called semi-synchronous mirroring.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch0

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