EMC Moves Into the Midrange NAS Market

In what could be dubbed Goliath's incursion into David's territory, EMC Corp. yesterday announced the release of a network-attached storage (NAS) device that analysts said directly challenges the only other major competitor in the midrange part of the NAS market.

EMC's Clarion IP4700, code-named Chameleon, is a NAS system that holds about 3.5TB of data on RAID devices. The product will sell for about US$82,000, making it EMC's lowest-priced storage device and putting it smack in the middle of a price range that has been dominated by Santa Clara, Calif.-based Network Appliance Inc.

"Where Network Appliance has been the unopposed king of the market, now they have a legitimate competitor," said Steve Duplessie, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Milford, Mass.

EMC already offers a more expensive high-end NAS device called Celerra, which runs off its bulky Symmetrix storage system, and the Hopkinton, Massachusetts-based company commands about 30 percent of the storage-area network (SAN) market.

Spacedisk Corp., a Singapore-based storage service provider, decided to test Chameleon for use with its systems because it couldn't afford a higher-end NAS device that would also have to be supported by IT staffers at its 40 locations worldwide.

"We wanted a lot of flexibility. We don't have lots of rack space, and we want to scale fast," said Mikhil Jhingan, chief privacy officer at Spacedisk. "We just hooked [Chameleon] into the LAN. It took us about 20 minutes. We have been testing it for the last five or six weeks. It has passed all our tests."

EMC chose to throw its hat into the midrange NAS arena because it already has the SAN market "pretty much covered," said a company spokesman. And while the SAN market is still expected to be the faster-growing of the two, IDC in Framingham, Mass., estimates that sales of NAS devices will jump from US$540 million two years ago to $5.1 billion by 2003.

Looking to bridge what Joseph Tucci, EMC's president and chief operating officers, described as "a holy war" between SAN and NAS storage technologies, the company also announced new software that it said integrates the two approaches into one when used with the Celerra devices in file-sharing applications.

According to EMC, the HighRoad software can dynamically choose between LAN-based storage or a SAN depending on which of the two offers optimal performance. Targeted applications include Web hosting, image processing and simulation or modeling uses, said Tucci, who added that the new software puts Celerra "in the role of traffic cop."

IBM, one of EMC's top storage rivals, said it also is developing integrated SAN/NAS software to challenge EMC's latest volley. A storage management application, called Think Tank, that will let users manage storage devices from a variety of vendors as a single network is due out in the second quarter of next year, said Mike Harrison, IBM's director of storage business alliances.

Harrison added that the Think Tank software also would work with multiple operating systems, including Unix, Windows NT and OS/390.

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