Intel brings EMC to small-business storage

Intel adds Celeron processing brawn to its entry-level storage systems, enabling more users to carry out more complex tasks simultaneously with the stored data

Intel has added processing brawn and big-name brains in its second shot at home and small-business storage.

On Tuesday, the company introduced two "white box" storage platforms for distributors, resellers, and other channel partners to customize and sell.

Using identical hardware, the Intel Entry Storage System SS4200-EHW and SS4200-E both are equipped with Intel's Celeron 400 Series processor. That's a step up from the XScale chip in the company's first low-end NAS (network-attached storage) product, the SS4000, said Seth Bobroff, director of marketing programs for Intel Storage. The Celeron chips will allow more users to carry out more complex tasks simultaneously with the stored data, he said.

The sheer amount of data that small businesses have to deal with, frequently shared among employees, is feeding demand for network-attached storage. Simple bytes are more affordable than ever, but depending on a hard drive in a PC isn't good enough any more, said analyst Greg Schulz of StorageIO.

"Storage is getting cheaper, but then you've got to manage it," Schulz said. "People are becoming more aware that you have to protect this data."

That need is starting to emerge in homes as well, with consumers accumulating large stores of content such as music and video and in some cases trying to enjoy it on several different devices around the home. That's the idea behind Windows Home Server, a Microsoft software platform for protecting, organizing and sharing their content. Although specialized central storage devices are still at the cutting edge of home computing, Intel isn't the first vendor to step in. LaCie, Iomega, Cisco's Linksys division and other consumer-oriented players are already selling low-end storage appliances, Schulz said.

One thing that makes Intel's new offerings stand out is the SS4200-E, which comes with software from large-enterprise storage giant EMC, according to Shulz. Most important is its Retrospect managed backup and recovery software, he said. The other new platform, the SS4200-EHW, is hardware only and designed so channel partners can package other software. This could be Windows Home Server, but vendors such as FalconStor and Wasabi Systems are also developing and validating software for it, Intel said.

With the option for more advanced software, these platforms could even work in mass deployments across branches of a large organization such as a retail chain, Schulz said.

The devices can accommodate as many as four drives, so they could be configured with several terabytes of storage, Intel's Bobroff said. External SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) interfaces let users plug more storage into the devices. Intel expects products to ship in December, priced at $500 and up.

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