NAS originator makes play for marketshare

Auspex Systems Inc. has a chance to revive its business with the launch of a scalable network-attached storage device that lets enterprise network managers add storage to their Ethernet networks as they grow.

The company, which introduced the first NAS system to the market in 1988, unveiled its NS3000 Series NAS in May. The NS3000 scales from half a terabyte to more than 72 terabytes of data capacity and supports the Unix Network File System (NFS) and Microsoft Common Internet File System (CIFS), letting customers more easily expand their Unix and Windows NT/2000 networks. The NS3000 will include Auspex’ NetOS 3.01 operating system and software called TurboCopy that lets one machine copy its storage to another local or remote machine without affecting network performance.

Auspex was the market leader in NAS, market research firm International Data Corp. says, until 1998 when Network Appliance Inc. bumped the company out of the No. 1 spot and showed a 40 per cent market share by revenue; Auspex fell to 20 per cent of the market. By 2000, Auspex’s lead had eroded to less than 2 per cent as a result of “mismanagement, a lack of focus and bad marketing,” says Robert Iacono, vice-president of marketing for Auspex.

“Auspex’ technology was never faulted by anyone,” says Zachary Shess, an analyst with Aberdeen Group Inc. “It has been in their failure to market and distribute their products well. If the company can execute on marketing and sales and have a reasonably priced product, they have a chance of winning back some market share because of their technical heritage.”

Auspex wants to change all that with the NS3000, which has been expanded to work on NFS, CIFS, HTTP and Linux environments. The box will compete with NAS systems from Network Appliance and EMC. It attaches to the network with a gigabit Ethernet adapter and will process more than 18,000 I/O operations per second compared with 15,700 for the Network Appliance NetApp 840 and 12,500 for EMC in SPECsfs benchmark testing, the firm says. SPECsfs was developed by an industry team of developers who wanted a better means of measuring Unix NFS server performance.

Mark Zimmer, of the Mineral Management Service for the U.S. Department of the Interior in New Orleans, favors Auspex’ offering.

“Most of the storage we have is multiprotocol CIFS- and NFS-seismic data, which we share among Unix and Windows NT clients,” he says. “We have close to 12 terabytes of storage on-line and are going to purchase another 1 terabyte next month. Next year we will buy another 5 terabytes.”

We are averaging about 64MB/sec among 10 simultaneous clients,” Zimmer says. “The performance is compatible with what we see from Network Appliance and EMC boxes. Performance is very important in looking at seismic data. Because most clients are pulling in 200GB files, you need a server that can deliver that data very quickly to multiple clients.”

The NS3000 is available as a single node with an upper range of 6 terabytes.