Novell Intros NetDevice NAS Software

Computing environments found in mid-size businesses, branch offices and workgroups are often a patchwork quilt of operating systems and devices, making the addition of storage an ulcer-inflaming problem for network administrators.

Enter NetDevice NAS, a new software release for network-attached storage (NAS) from Novell Canada Ltd. that allows real-time storage and native access to Windows, Macintosh, Unix, Linux and HTTP files.

“[NetDevice users] select the hardware vendors of their choice and still have a single point of open storage regardless of what the client operating system is – and that makes it easier to do back-ups, easier to replace things that fail, and you don’t have data stored on 50 different PCs,” said Ross Chevalier, the Toronto-based director of technology for Novell Canada.

Enterprise-oriented storage solutions are often priced out of the range of smaller firms, noted Chevalier. But NetDevice lets companies purchase hardware from a number of different vendors and create NAS outside proprietary client dependencies, he said.

Alan Freedman, research manager for servers and storage at Toronto-based analyst firm IDC Canada, sees NetDevice as essentially a low-end NAS targeted at high-end small- to medium-sized businesses.

“It’s almost analogous to companies like Network Appliance who have a slimmed-down, very targeted operating system (embedded) on their NAS appliances, but NetDevice is just strictly a software product that’s going to enable a range of hardware products to act as a NAS filer,” he said.

IDC Canada has identified interoperability as a key issue for the future of storage, especially in the case of NAS, because it’s located right in the network, and this product definitely has compatible software as well as management services, Freedman said.

Although Freedman thinks the NetDevice concept is a good idea – especially for a company like Novell that is facing very stiff competition from Windows and Linux – as the first NAS of its kind, he wonders if it will find a market.

“The fact that you have higher-density disk drives just about every year or so means you can cram more storage into smaller physical spaces and I think people still need new disk capacity – plus [to use NetDevice] you’re going to have to have sufficient disk capacities,” he said.

“I think that there is still a place for the fully configured hardware versions from vendors like EMC, Network Appliance, Compaq, Dell and so on, who all have NAS appliances, so whether or not people are going to buy this software-only version of [NAS] remains to be seen.

“In the classical sense you could buy a network operating system, which is incredibly feature-rich for around the same kind of money [as NetDevice NAS],” acknowledged Chevalier.

“But can it be brought up and made to run with a minimum of skill investment in the same amount of time? The answer is ‘absolutely not’.”

Part of the whole rationale of building NetDevice open is so it’s as flexible and – by plugging more hot-swappable drives into any commonly available rack server – as scalable as the user’s hardware platform, Chevalier said.

“If you can answer some basic questions – like what’s your IP address – you can take your new hardware box out of the packaging, you put the CD in the drive, and in about 20 minutes you’ve got a storage appliance that’s ready to roll.”

Available at the end of this month, NetDevice NAS is priced at $2,644. For more information, visit