EMC touts SAN box as bargain

EMC Corp. is expected to bolster its network-attached storage system lineup next week with an inexpensive clustered midrange box and rules-based replication software that lets customers automatically distribute files over the network.

The EMC Celerra NS600 is a rack-mountable NAS server that uses much the same technology as the company’s storage-area network (SAN)/NAS gateways – the Celerra Clustered Network Server (CNS)/Clariion CX600 and Celerra CNS/Symmetrix – and is as much as 40 percent less expensive than equivalent NAS boxes from Network Appliance. The company also is announcing software that provides a rules-based method for distributing files or data between any remote Windows, Unix or Linux NAS appliance or file server and the Celerra NS600 and CNS boxes using an IP network.

EMC says that the NS600 is also half the cost and half the size of its Celerra CNS/Clariion CX600 gateway because it eliminates a lot of the hardware that attaches the CNS to the network and the back-end Fibre Channel SAN. Available in capacities from 1 TB to 11 TB, the NS600 comes in two models: a clustered high-availability version and a performance model that uses the additional unclustered capacity and controllers to speed performance.

“From a customer standpoint, the market is driven by price at this time,” says Peter Werner, president of Storage, Security and Networks Consulting. “The NS600 is ideal in a file services environment. The price points are very attractive, and the performance is good.” Werner has an NS600 with 3 to 4 TB of capacity.

“The NS600 gives EMC a very solid midrange NAS product that fits in with the rest of their family,” says Peter Gerr, an analyst with Enterprise Storage Group Inc. “It is an attractive product for departments and workgroups in the enterprise and does it in an inexpensive manner.”

The NS600 is strictly a NAS device, unlike EMC’s Celerra CNS boxes, which can handle either block- or file-level data. The NS600 can handle only file-level Windows Common Information File System or Unix/Linux Network File System data. It can be managed from a Windows, Web or Unix command-line interface.

The file distribution software, called OnCourse, lets Celerra systems push or pull files from remote file servers and NAS devices. It uses a series of administrator-controlled rules to dictate how data is transferred across the WAN.

“The ability to simply and securely move data from or to heterogeneous systems is important,” Gerr says. “The software is very robust and has centralized management and the ability to apply policies based on size, type or application that can affect data movement between locations. It can really improve the price/performance of moving large amounts of data.”

For instance, a company might want to distribute new parts, inventory or price lists each week to its remote locations. With OnCourse, the IT manager can set up a rule that will monitor the Celerra and when new information appears, automatically distribute it to each remote file server or NAS appliance. Alternately, OnCourse could be used to back up data from remote devices to the Celerra in the company’s data center.

Werner has used the OnCourse software to consolidate data from hundreds of edge file servers into NAS systems in several projects with large customers.

“We were running into a bit of a performance problem in terms of the way these customers had files they were trying to recover,” Werner says. “The recovery times were very long. We were looking at moving a lot of the interim data onto the NAS heads to replicate data across the WAN and needed a tool that could replicate bit by bit data rather than file by file when minor changes were made. OnCourse is handling the replication.”

The OnCourse software is similar to distributed NAS file-sharing products from Tacit Networks Inc., Novell Inc., DiskSites Inc. and Web Office Inc. Unlike those products, it doesn’t require specific hardware at remote locations. Like Novell’s Nterprise Remote Office, OnCourse is software-only, which in EMC’s case is installed on the Celerra file server. EMC has licensed and branded the software from Signiant, which uses it to operate its own data movement service.

The NSS600 competes with Network Appliance’s FAS940 and FAS940C file servers, which perform as NAS appliances, or optionally as SAN/NAS gateways. It is 40 per cent less expensive than Network Appliance Inc.’s clustered FAS940 C, which costs about US$294,300. Network Appliance’s unclustered FAS940 costs about $132,300 compared with EMC’s performance model NS600 at $168,000.

The high-availability NSS600 is available now starting at $167,000 for 1 TB capacity; the OnCourse software is also available now. The management console costs $30,000.