Network Appliance takes on HP, EMC

Company's midrange network storage platforms offer easier migration among NetApp storage lines

Network Appliance Inc. is introducing midrange network storage platforms Tuesday that it says pose a competitive challenge to storage devices from rivals EMC Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

The FAS3070 and V3070, at starting list prices of about US$115,000, are positioned between NetApp's midrange 3050 line and its high-end 6030 lines. The 3070s feature 64-bit encryption architecture, 16G bytes of memory, accommodate up to 504 disk drives and offer 252T bytes of storage capacity. The V3070 is similar to the FAS3070 but operates in virtualized storage environments.

The new NetApp models are designed so it's easier to migrate from one NetApp storage line to the next than is possible with comparable EMC and HP models, said Patrick Rogers, vice president of products and partners at NetApp.

If a data center manager wants to upgrade from the NetApp 3050 to the 3070, for instance, they need only remove the 3050 controller from the storage appliance and replace it with a 3070. It's similarly as easy to upgrade from a 3070 to a 6030, said Rogers. But if a manager wants to upgrade from a midrange EMC Clariion CX3-80 to a high-end EMC Symmetrix DMX-3, they would have to download all the data from the disk drives and upload them to the replacement model. Rogers said the same cumbersome process would be required to upgrade from a midrange HP StorageWorks EVA8000 to a high-end StorageWorks XP10000.

That ease of migration gives NetApp an edge over its larger competitors, said Dianne McAdam, an analyst with Clipper Group.

"There are lot of ways to replicate, but if NetApp has the same operating system that runs all their [storage devices] that's definitely an advantage," said McAdam.

NetApp is also well-positioned in the storage market by virtue of its agreement with IBM Corp. for IBM to resell NetApp products, she said.

NetApp is also introducing upgrades to its line of NetApp Manageability Software, including improvements in its snapshot capabilities, Rogers said. A snapshot is a digital capture of a storage database to serve as a backup in the event the storage system fails. NetApp's SnapManager takes snapshots without the performance degradation seen in competitor's systems, he said. The ease-of-use of other system features has also been enhanced.

"This all simplifies the life of the storage manager by saving him time. He doesn't have to go through as many steps," Rogers said.

NetApp originally focused on selling NAS (network-attached storage) technology, that is, storage of file-based data. But over the last two years, it has also begun selling into the SAN (storage-area network) market. NetApp introduced its first high-end storage appliance, the FAS6030, in May.

NetApp is taking on the storage leaders in comparing its new 3070s to comparable models from EMC and HP. EMC held a 21.8 percent share of the worldwide external disk storage systems market, based on revenue, in the first quarter of 2006, according to IDC. HP followed with a 17.9 percent share. NetApp, according its first quarter earnings report, reported a 9.6 percent share, also citing IDC figures.

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