NetApp Rounds Out SMB Plan With New iSCSI/NAS Appliance

The S500 is the final piece to the SMB strategy the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor unveiled in mid-May when in introduced its plan to engage the channel with products and programs targeted at companies with as few as 30 employees.

NetApp follows its enterprise storage arch-rival EMC, which entered the small business space a couple years ago with its AX100 array, and which in February unveiled its Insignia small business channel program.

The S500 offers both network attached storage (NAS) and iSCSI connectivity in a single appliance, with raw capacity of up to 6 Tbytes. It includes the NetApp software stack including its Data ONTAP operating system, the ability to store up to 250 snapshot images, and SnapStore for near-instantaneous restore from those snapshots.

The hardware itself can be configured with up to 12 250-Gbyte or 500-Gbyte SATA hard drives, and comes with dual Gbit Ethernet ports and hot-swap redundant power supplies and fans.

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A Fibre Channel SAN option is expected to be available this Fall.

Sajai Krishnan, general manager of StoreVault, said the appliance is the first all-in-one network storage solution to allow NAS, iSCSI SAN, and Fibre Channel SAN connectivity in a single box. However, he said, installation is simple. "Users can go from carton to serving files in under 10 minutes," he said.

Because small businesses are starting to experience many of the same data issues their enterprise cousins face, Krishnan said NetApp added several enterprise-class features to the S500.

One of those features is thin provisioning, under which storage capacity can be automatically allocated to specific applications without the need for an IT administrator to ensure excess capacity is available, Krishnan said.

"Just think of all those marketing and engineering files that need so much space," he said. As those files grow, customers can just drop them in. The space for them is there automatically."

Solution providers in the small business space and the not-so-small business space said the S500 is a good alternative to products from two main rivals, EMC and the Snap Appliance business of Milpitas, Calif.-based Adaptec.

John Howard, VP of sales and a principal at Boston Computers and Peripherals, a Sharon, Mass.-based solution provider in the small business space, said that while a number of vendors such as Snap Appliance have already entered the market with NAS/iSCSI appliances, NetApp has a very attractive name in this space.

"We'll position the NetApp cachet, telling customers you don't need to spend $30,000 to get NetApp," Howard said. "Or we can go to existing NetApp customers and offer them additions to what they already have."

For existing NetApp channel partners, the success of the S500 depends on how well they can break with their current sales mentality, said Merrill Likes, president of UpTime, an Edmond, Okla.-based NetApp solution provider.

"NetApp products usually take weeks to sell and train customers," Likes said. "With the S500, you have to ascertain rapidly if a customer can handle it itself or whether you need to add a half-day of professional services to teach them how to do snapshots or integrate with Exchange."