New Storage Products Get Easier and More Affordable

By Dan Muse | Posted April 03, 2006

Remember the old Miller Lite beer commercials? Two groups would argue loudly over which attribute was more important in a light beer. Should it be "less filling" or was "tastes great" the key? In reality, of course, we all know they are equally important.

When it comes to storage, it's easy to imagine a similar commercial with one camp chanting "Less complex!" and other calling out "Costs less!" Again, in reality, we know they are equally important.

In fact, while many SMBs realize that they should implement a storage strategy, they have been on the storage wagon waiting for low cost to meld with ease of use. That is, not only do smaller business want storage products that work within their budgets, they demand an ease-of-use factor that seemingly belies network storage.

Looking to address those two issues, EMC and STORServer today announced new products designed to tap the growing need for storage and data protection products among SMBs.

EMC Insignia Means (Small) Business
EMC sells a lot of storage to a lot of businesses of varying sizes. In a move to help it better serve small businesses, in February it announced the EMC Insignia line, which consists of products designed to help SMBs store, manage, protect and share data.

Today, the company introduced the newest entries in the line — the EMC/Insignia CLARiiON AX150 and AX150i networked storage systems. The AX150 is based on Fibre Channel, a data-transfer technology designed to replace SCSI. While Fibre Channel offers high performance, it's not widely implemented among SMBs due to its cost. In fact, according to a recent survey by the Yankee Group, even among businesses with between 250 and 499 employees only 13 percent run Fibre Channel storage area networks (SANs). So, as you can imagine, the demand for Fibre Channel among the smaller of SMB is negligible.

More appealing to smaller businesses is the AX150i, which is based on iSCSI technology, an IP-based standard for connecting storage devices over an IP network by transferring data by carrying SCSI commands. "The 150i is second-generation iSCSI product coming at a time when other companies are just announcing their first iSCSI products," said Larry Zulch, vice president and general manager for EMC Insignia. The 150i supports SATA II disk drive support and enhanced data protection. The 3Gb SATA II drives are "twice as fast as the AX100 in some situations," Zulch said.

The CLARiiON AX150i is designed to be set up and deployed in minutes, according to Zulch, thanks to an iSCSI Web-based Installation Wizard, online support and a step-by-step, foldout Getting Started chart. Zulch equated the level of difficulty of setting up the 150i to getting a Wi-Fi router up and running.

Tony Asaro, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, confirms EMC's claim, saying that the company was able to get a CLARiiON AX150i installed and running in less than 30 minutes. "We expect that to be typical for the average customer," he said in a statement released by EMC.

For improved backup and recovery operations, the CLARiiON AX150 systems are designed to support up to eight concurrent array-based data snapshots. And to ensure a high level of availability, EMC Insignia offers a dual-controller option and redundant power supplies.

The new CLARiiON AX systems are available today from authorized EMC resellers and EMC Velocity SMB partners. The systems are also available from Dell, PC Connection and CDW, Zulch said. Prices are expected to start at $5,600. More specific pricing info is available through Dell and other EMC partners.

Having a channel of well-informed partners that small businesses can contact is essential for the AX150, Zulch said. "This is a product that is bought, not sold. No one will be knocking on your door saying you have to buy this."

EZ Does It
When it comes to protecting data, many small businesses either cobble together a backup plan or roll the dice and do nothing. Neither is a great idea. Looking to offer SMBs a more thought-out option, STORServer, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based manufacturer of backup and disaster recovery appliances, today announced a new line of STORServer EZ Backup Appliances.

According to Ellen Rome, vice president of sales and marketing, the appliances are designed to be cost-efficient and easy-to-use backup solutions based on IBM storage hardware and software. The EZ Backup Appliances also come preloaded with either IBM Tivoli Storage Manager or the new Tivoli Storage Manager Express.

Rome said the all-in-one package is designed to make it easier to both buy and set up a backup and recovery product. "You have a single number to call for both the hardware and software." Storage systems included several elements including servers, disks, tape libraries and storage management software. Getting it all to work together can be a challenge. "Integration is not a fun process," Rome said. "When you buy separate products, there's a lot of finger-pointing [when something goes wrong]. We offer one throat to choke."

The EZ Backup Appliances are built to back up all popular servers and workstations, and can also be purchased with IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files — software designed to continuously capture and save changes to files and send copies of data to a backup location — adding a second layer of defense against data loss.

Designed specifically for small businesses, the STORServer's EZ Entry Backup Appliance offer disk-to-disk backup for up to two terabytes of data (a version for customers with less than a terabyte of data is also available). The appliance integrates IBM's new Tivoli Storage Manager Express automated backup and recovery software. All backups are stored on the server disk, but an optional disk array is available for expanded storage capacity. Customers can also add tape backup for disaster recovery.

With the integration of IBM Express Portfolio software and hardware, Rome said the new STORServer EZ Backup Appliances have received "Built on IBM Express" validation. The STORServer EZ Backup Appliance is available through IBM resellers only. Pricing for the entry-level appliance starts at $5,000.

More to Come
Expect to see all storage vendors and resellers intensify their focus on the small business market. Last week, market research firm IDC predicted that 2006 will be a breakout year for storage among SMBs. The firm cites the demands for data retention and increases in LANs and broadband connectivity as the driving forces.

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com's Small Business Channel, EarthWeb's Networking Channel and ServerWatch.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!


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