Microsoft NAS Deal A Midmarket And Channel Play For EMC

EMC is currently one of the top NAS vendors, but its product line consists of the Celerra NAS gateways, which make use of disk space on the vendor's Symmetrix series of enterprise-class SAN arrays.

EMC plans to ship sometime in the third quarter the NetWin 200 NAS, which consists of an industry-standard Intel-based server combined with the company's Clariion CX-series array technology, Hollis said at the EMC Technology Summit, held here this week.

The NetWin 200 will initially be based on a server from Dell Computer, which is EMC's largest storage partner. Other versions of the NAS appliance will be built on platforms from Fujitsu, another EMC storage partner, Hollis said. Both Dell and Fujitsu resell EMC's Clariion lines, and Dell has recently started producing the Clariion CX200 under license from EMC.

EMC may also unveil other OEM partners in the future--in part due to channel issues, Hollis said. "We are very channel-sensitive on this one," he said. "We need to come up with the right flavor."

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The NetWin 200 will be a good product for the channel, Hollis said. "It's very integration-rich," he said. "Customers need integration and services with this product. The services content of NAS implementations has skyrocketed."

In addition to implementing Microsoft's Windows Powered NAS operation system in its NetWin 200, EMC also plans to work with Microsoft to enhance its Celerra product, Hollis said. "The future of NAS in the corporate environment is defined by Microsoft," he said.

Zane Adam, director of product management and marketing for Microsoft's Enterprise Storage Division, said Microsoft has gone from a zero-percent share of the NAS market to 33 percent or 38 percent, depending on which analyst's estimations are used.

By building NAS appliances on the Windows operating system, customers can run Windows-based applications and take advantage of the operating system's features natively. "For example, if you use Windows-powered NAS and invest in security products for Windows, they can also be used with the NAS," he said. "There's no need to buy new software or go through new training."

Hollis said the new NetWin appliance and the move to work with Microsoft on its Celerra NAS line pits EMC squarely against such competitors with proprietary operating systems as Network Appliance, BlueArc and Spinnaker. "We believe anyone who does not have Microsoft compatibility in the future will be disadvantaged," he said.

The NetWin 200 product is expected to be priced between $50,000 and $135,000, depending on configuration. That price includes the industry-standard server and the storage.

With the unveiling of NetWin 200, EMC has established a NAS line from entry level to the enterprise to counter recent moves by archrival Hitachi Data Systems. At the same time, EMC and Microsoft are also fully squaring off against Network Appliance, a bitter rival of both.

About two weeks ago, HDS unveiled an NAS gateway to its enterprise-class storage arrays using diskless versions of Network Appliance's Filer series of NAS appliances. This was HDS's third stab at the NAS market after similar agreements with Network Engines and Auspex panned out. Auspex, the original developer of NAS appliances, last week filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Microsoft and Network Appliance, meanwhile, have been promoting rival file storage formats for years.

As part of their go-to-market strategy for Microsoft Windows Powered NAS, EMC and Microsoft have set up a joint service and support program under which customers can call their vendor of choice for support, with actual support being integrated between the two vendors behind-the-scenes, Hollis said. "The last thing large enterprise customers want [to hear] is, 'Call the other guy,'" he said.

The two vendors will also unveil joint road maps of features and functionality for Windows-based storage, Hollis said.