NAS in a 'Snap'

Falling prices put NAS center stage, especially for workgroups

October 2, 2001

3 Min Read
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The Snap Appliances division of Quantum Corp. this week started commmercial shipment of a small network attached storage (NAS) filer, highlighting a key trend in workgroup gear.

The Snap Server 12000 features just under a terabyte of storage, putting it in the low- to mid-range section of this market. Snap expects the 12000 to appeal to workgroups of 300 to 400 people (see Snap Boosts Support, Capacities).

At $15,000 retail, the 12000 costs about 1.6 cents per megabyte of storage, since the filer has 960 gigabytes of capacity in a unit that fits in a standard 19-inch rack. Features include hot-swappable fans and power supplies; RAID 5, 1, and 0; and remote monitoring and management abilities. Snap uses its own Unix-derived operating system.

Snap also is increasing storage capacity while slashing the price per megabyte on its cheaper products. The vendor has upgraded its 20-gigabyte Snap Server 1000 to 40 gigabytes and its 40-gigabyte offering to 80 gigabytes. At a suggested retail price of $800, the latter model is down to a penny per megabyte.

Snap's moves reflect a trend toward falling prices and increased capacity across smaller NAS units. Analysts say this bodes well for small businesses and workgroups in larger organizations.It hasn't always been this way. Earlier models of these low-end products were considered toys,” says analyst Arun Taneja of the Enterprise Storage Group Inc. He notes that as recently as a year ago, such devices weren’t even on most people’s radar screens.

But the souring economic conditions have put these small, affordable storage products, built with inexpensive drives and fewer redundant features, in the limelight. At the same time, mid- to high-end NAS products have plunged from about 40 cents to 10 cents a megabyte.

Snap's 12000 is comparable to recent small- to mid-range offerings from other vendors. Maxtor Corp., Quantum’s biggest rival in the NAS space, offers similar NAS products. Sony Corp. of America entered the NAS market just two weeks ago, but it does not yet have a product comparable to the 12000 (see Sony Unveils Network Appliances and Sony Enters NAS Fray). Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), the largest mid- to high-range NAS vendor, has some products at this level, but focuses most of its marketing efforts on selling more expensive products to larger customers. Procom Technology also competes in the low- to mid-range NAS market, but analysts say it has a relatively small market share (see Procom's Prospects Dim).

As NAS vendors reach out to the masses with more devices designed for small- to mid-size work groups, demand for NAS filers is bound to increase, sources say. “NAS is no longer just the purview of the larger IT environment,” says Taneja. “There’s no reason anymore not to deploy NAS.”

Other analysts say price will help boost the trend. "Most buyers of NAS products are not very concerned about operating systems or speeds and feeds of products," says Zac Shess, an analyst with Aberdeen Group Inc.

Key concerns, he notes, are affordability and ease of use.— Tom Davey, special to Byte and Switch,

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