SMEs, say farewell to DAS

New products from Pillar Data and Xiotech boost the ease and affordability of networked storage

Not long ago I had an interesting conversation with a group of folks from a major storage vendor. They had requested a briefing to discuss how to improve their infrastructure to better support product reviews.

That's not unusual. Every now and then I have similar exchanges with vendors, but what struck me was that our conversation was focused mainly on iSCSI products and almost ignored the successful FC (Fibre Channel) line the vendor also carries.

Why was this vendor so centered on its bargain-priced iSCSI line and paying so little attention to its boutique-priced FC products? No doubt because iSCSI solutions have more appeal for SME (small and midsize enterprise) customers -- emphasis on small -- and that's the market niche that's driving the big growth in storage sales, according to just about any analyst, pundit, and storage shaman you might want to talk to.

The name of the vendor? I am not telling, sorry, and it really doesn't matter because nearly every storage name you can think of -- including the likes of EMC, HP, IBM, and NetApp, to name a noteworthy few -- is working to bring home more SME business. This week you can add two more names to that list, Pillar Data Systems and Xiotech, both of which have announced new storage solutions for entry-level customers.

You may remember that Pillar Data's Axiom combines a rather unique architecture with specialized boxes that apply some neat tricks to boost control, performance, and capacity. The new offering for entry-level customers maintains the same architecture, and it's still based on AxiomONE software, but scales "only" to 24TB.

To lower the entry-level price for SME customers, Pillar Data offers a choice of SATA or FC drives and includes a different packaging of AxiomONE. Basic management features are included, but more advanced functionality such as capacity planning, replication, and snapshots are optionally available at additional cost.

It's worth noting that for the first time Pillar Data is offering iSCSI connectivity on its gear, probably also an attempt to reduce the cost.

What's the price of this scaled-down offering? About $35,000 for a 5TB configuration with basic software. This figure won't earn Pillar Data an award as the lowest-priced solution in the SME space, but customers should be able to easily migrate from an entry-level configuration to a fully fledged one. "They just need to change the controller box," explains Russ Kennedy, senior director of marketing and strategy.

Xiotech isn't exactly new to the SME market, having offered a scaled-down version of its enterprise solution, the Magnitude 3D Edge, quite some time ago.

As is Axiom, the 3D Edge was also on the pricey side, but the new Magnitude 750 that Xiotech announced this week is not only more affordable but also simpler and easier to use, courtesy of a new management interface called ICON Manager.

For example, without ever leaving the Windows-based ICON Manager you can provision a volume and assign it to one of the 24 servers supported. These can be running Linux, Novell NetWare, or Windows.

The people at Xiotech seem quite proud of ICON Manager. In fact, they plan to extend the same interface to the larger gear.

Speaking of which, it is worth noting that the Magnitude 750 can scale to 24TB (yet another similarity to Axiom), deploys SATA drives, and connects to its servers using iSCSI.

The price of this baby? A one-controller configuration starts at $17,000, which should make the Magnitude 750 more tempting for companies still stuffing data inside their application servers.

Affordable storage networks are arriving in droves. It's time to say farewell to DAS, don't you think?

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