NetApp Targets Midrange With SAS Filers


Network Appliance this week made a midmarket play with two new models in its FAS2000 storage appliance line, its first featuring SAS hard drives, along with some help from its distributors who are offering hardware and software bundles based on the new arrays.

NetApp also got some help from IBM, which also unveiled its version of the two appliances.

NetApp has traditionally had a heavy data center enterprise focus, but with the new FAS2020 and FAS2050 it is now targeting the midsize enterprise market for the first time, said Ravi Chalaka, senior director of marketing for the company's NAS solutions.

"Midsize enterprises account for about 30 percent of the storage market, and is the fastest-growing part of the market, according to IDC," Chalaka. "IDC expects it to grow annually about 11 percent through 2011."

The FAS2020 and FAS2050 are NetApp's first appliances to feature SAS (serial-attach SCSI) hard drives, Chalaka said. They are the new entry-level for the company, except for the low-end StoreVault S500, he said, but they use the same Data ONTAP operating system as the rest of the line, he said.

The new appliances both operate as part of a Fibre Channel or IP SAN or as a NAS device simultaneously, and work with SAS, SATA, or Fibre Channel drives. The FAS2020 has a maximum of 40 hard drives for a total raw capacity of up to 24 Tbytes, and up to 2 Gbytes of memory. The FAS2050 can be configured with up to 104 hard drives, or 69 Tbytes, and comes with up to 4 Gbytes of memory and an additional two open PCI Express slots.

Merrill Likes, president of UpTime, an Edmond, Okla.-based solution provider and NetApp partner, called the FAS2020 and FAS2050 "a cute little box" that fits between the current FAS250 and FAS270 and the FAS3000 series.

Likes said the fact that the basic configuration of the FAS2000 appliances includes a maximum of only 12 SAS hard drives is not really a limitation, given that customers can expand with Fibre Channel or SATA hard drives via external drive shelves.

"Effectively, its the NetApp mothership version of the StoreVault," he said. "NetApp has always tried to differentiate its NetApp from its StoreVault products. But the FAS2000 series will be a good entry-level product for NetApp. At the entry-level, customers can do fine with just the embedded SAS hard drives."

Because the FAS2000 appliances use SAS drives, they are a palatable option for midsize enterprises who might otherwise have to look to more expensive Fibre Channel for their performance products, Likes said. This is especially true when one considers that the FAS2000 appliances offer all the same features as NetApp's high-end FAS3000 and FAS6000 families, he said.

Likes also likes the expandability of the FAS2000 appliances. "The FAS2000 gets us into smaller customers like we could do with the FAS250 and FAS270," he said. "And when the customer outgrows the FAS2000s, they can just roll in a FAS3000 head, power down the FAS2000, connect the drive shelves to the FAS3000, plug it in, and reboot to migrate."

IBM, which signed an agreement with NetApp in mid-2005 under which it can resell nearly the entire NetApp product line, is selling the FAS2020 as its IBM System Storage N3300, and the FAS2050 as its IBM System Storage N3600.

To help its solution providers bring the new appliances to market, NetApp is also offering new channel-exclusive Select bundles, said Leonard Iventosch, vice president of global channels for NetApp.

The Select bundles include the based hardware, a single or a dual controller, software for such applications as disaster recovery, and additional expansion shelves and software, and is priced so that solution providers can get attractive margins without special pricing, Iventosch said.

The Select bundles bring margins on the FAS2000 appliances up from the single digits to the double digits without special pricing, Iventosch said. "But if the solution provider is in a competitive situation and needs more aggressive pricing, he can still ask for special pricing," he said.

NetApp is also offering its channel partners a chance to work with its Get Successful enablement program, which includes sales guides, market data, competitive matrixes, sales strategies, and a training CD, Iventosch said.

Those kits, which are now available for Microsoft Exchange and VMware installations, with versions for SQL, SharePoint, Oracle, and SAP expected to be available in the near future, he said.

"The kits were initially targeted at solution providers," he said. "But we're finding that our direct sales are starting to ask for them as well because they find the kits to be more complete than the training we give them. I find that gratifying."

Both of NetApp's primary enterprise distributors, Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions and Avnet Technology Solutions, are offering the new FAS2000 appliances with the Select bundles and the Get Successful kits.