IBM's Midrange NAS Play

Big Blue signed a relationship with NetApp in April under which it plans to OEM nearly every NetApp product. The first of those products, the entry-level N3700, was released in August.

Starting next month, IBM plans to ship two midrange appliances, the N5500, IBM&'s version of NetApp&'s FAS 3050, and the N5200, the rebranded version of the FAS 3020.

The N5200 with 1 Tbyte of capacity has a list price of $60,000, and a comparably configured N5500 starts at $85,000.

When IBM inked the deal with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based NetApp, it said the alliance was aimed squarely at taking share from longtime storage rival EMC.

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Champion Solutions Group has already invested in getting its engineers up to speed on the new appliances, said Chris Pyle, president of the Boca Raton, Fla.-based IBM solution provider.

“We&'re excited,” Pyle said. “It&'s a big enough deal for us that we are putting it on our business register for 2006. It&'s the first time we&'ve set a specific goal for NAS sales.” IBM has had NAS gateways before, but Pyle said that until IBM signed with NetApp, its NAS product line was “less than desirable.”

IBM&'s NetApp relationship will be important to Champion in promoting its NAS products, said Pyle. “We are promoting the fact that it&'s made by NetApp,” he said. “NetApp has a great name with customers.”

That relationship is not as exciting for NetApp solution provider UpTime, said Merrill Likes, president of the Edmond, Okla.-based company.

“We&'re holding judgment,” Likes said. “We don&'t see IBM&'s NAS on the streets, and we don&'t see their resellers pushing it yet. It will take time for IBM to train them. And it will take time for IBM resellers to get out of their comfort zone of selling their FastT [storage] products. This is much more sophisticated than IBM&'s storage products.”

Craig Butler, brand manager for disk storage at IBM, Armonk, N.Y., said the N5500 can be configured with up to 336 hard drives for a capacity of up to 84 Tbytes with Fibre Channel drives or 168 Tbytes using Serial ATA drives. The N5200 can hold up to 168 hard drives for a maximum capacity of 50 Tbytes of Fibre Channel storage or 84 Tbytes of SATA storage.

Both units achieve that scalability with expansion drawers that hold either 14 Fibre Channel or 14 SATA drives, said Butler.

IBM is also providing a number of chargeable functions to enable solution providers to add services, Butler said. Among these are NetApp&'s SnapVault backup software and its SnapMirror data mirroring software. “For customers with several N3700s installed, SnapVault lets an N5200 serve as a backup target,” he said.