Storage vendor Zetera is moving its technology for developing simple, user-friendly storage networks from its OEM roots to bring it to the channel.
Zetera this week unveiled its NBOD family of networked storage solutions along with its first formal channel program in a bid to gain the support of solution providers with small and midsize business clients needing help to tackle their growing storage requirements.
The Irvine, Calif.-based company's NBOD (short for "networked bunch of disks") was designed to help smaller businesses with as few as three servers and that lack storage networking skills to start moving away from direct-attached storage, said Ryan Malone, vice president of partner channel and development.
The NBOD is a four-drive appliance that connects to a company's LAN switch. A software application runs on each server, allowing solution providers to mount a portion of the capacity from up to 10 NBODs as if it were a new internal hard drive for the server.
"The server thinks of [that capacity] as if it was an internal hard drive," Malone said. "If the server runs out of capacity, the storage administrator can quickly add new capacity up to a maximum of 2 Tbytes per volume, and 24 volumes per server."
As an NBOD's capacity is depleted, the solution provider can plug another unit into any open LAN port, Malone said. "The software sees the new capacity and can allocate it to a new server or add part of it to a volume of storage in an existing server," he said.
It is just that simple, said Dan Johns, president of Integra Technology Consulting, an Exton, Penn.-based integrator in the small and midsize business market.
"You load the Personal Storage Manager application on the server, which then shows all the connected NBODS," Johns said. "Then you set if you want a dedicated or a shared volume. It's very intuitive. You just click 'mount' or 'dismount,' 'share' or 'unshare.' You can literally unpack it, put it on the wire, load the software, and within five minutes you are ready to go."
The NBOD is a good alternative to other storage networking technologies for smaller businesses because it doesn't lock customers into Fibre Channel or iSCSI, Johns said.
"You can start with one box, and it scales -- Zetera says until infinity, but everything has a limit -- and it's flexible," he said. "The box is a low-cost entry to storage networking, and it's idiot-proof."
However, Johns said, the NBOD is not perfect. For instance, he said, it has a single power supply, which is typically the place a storage device fails. However, he said Zetera is expecting to release a 12-bay version in the near future that will add a second power supply.
Wally Dragich, president of IC Technology, a Toronto, Ontario-based solution provider specializing in building clustered rendering farms based on blade servers and Zetera storage, said he has not seen the new NBOD appliances, but he does like Zetera's technology in general.
"Zetera reduces the complexity," Dragich said. "We just connect their storage to a low-end switch. We don't need a high-end switch. It then serves as a computer-less server. Every drive has its own IP address."
The NBOD devices include space for up to four hard drives, and come in desktop and 1U rackmount versions. The are sold to the channel with no hard drives, letting solution providers do the integration for customers. NBODs target Windows 2003 and Windows XP environments for storage consolidation, Malone said.
Along with the new NBOD product family, Zetera is also starting to expand beyond its dependence on an OEM contract with Bell Microproducts by launching its first channel program, one aimed at attracting a wider base of small- and mid-size business solution providers, Malone said.
The program provides for two levels of solution providers. Partners at the authorized level are not required to commit to specific sales targets, while at the gold level partners will have to commit to sell a minimum of $125,000 or a minimum of 75 units over 12 months, Malone said.
"We want to discuss gold-level partners' commitment with them every six months so we can help them ramp up their business," he said.
The rackmount NBOD 1100 version lists for $2,699 with no disks, while the desktop NBOD 410 lists for $2,199. Malone said they will both be available to solution providers direct from the vendor initially while the company prepares to sign distribution partners. Zetera does not plan to sell direct to end-user, he said.