NetApp announces high-performance midrange NAS

Network Appliance announced two midrange network-attached storage (NAS) boxes with 50 percent better performance than its highest-end NAS boxes and four times the capacity of previous-generation midrange arrays. The boxes can also be configured with Serial Advanced Technology Attached (SATA) drives that NetApp said can be used for primary storage.

The NetApp FAS3000 series includes two arrays -- the FAS3020 and FAS3050 -- that can be configured with either high-performance Fibre Channel disk drives or lower-cost SATA drives. The FAS3020 can scale to 50TB capacity, and the FAS3050 scales to 84TB.

For the first time, NetApp is also offering a RAID 6 configuration on its NAS boxes. RAID 6 calculates two sets of parity information for each unit of data, allowing the array to handle a failure of any two drives without loss of data or system downtime.

Cendant, a US$19 billion hotel franchise that owns Days Inn Worldwide and Super 8 Motels, uses 20 NetApp filers with a total of 45TB of capacity. Glenn Harper, director of data strategy at Cendant, said the company plans to add the FAS3000 series during the next year and will use fewer high-end boxes from NetApp, such as the FAS960 and FAS980 arrays. That's because he can deploy the new arrays for less money without suffering a performance loss.

"For example, you can still do clustering and high-end NFS [network file system] I/Os just like the 960," he said. "So we're using the same box, the same OS, the same management tools all the way through. But I can buy lower cost ATA for [development] tests and then use the same Fibre [Channel disk] for production."

Harper said he's also comfortable using SATA drives for production applications because of the RAID 6 configuration option.

"The performance on home directories is not high enough to justify the cost of [Fibre Channel] anymore," he said. "I'll still have a backup in another location, but I don't know how you'd lose data when you have two dual-parity RAIDs. I don't think you'd ever have enough failures to lose it completely."

NetApp also debuted two new V-Series, formerly G-Series, virtualization gateway devices based on the new FAS3000 series: the NetApp V3020 and V3050. The gateways can use Hewlett-Packard, EMC or IBM's disk subsystems as back-end storage, according to Suresh Vasudevan, senior vice president of product management at NettApp.

Brad Nisbit, an analyst at market research company IDC in Framingham, Mass., said he likes NetApp's mixed-drive offering.

"The midrange is the perfect target right now," Nisbit said. "We have seen most [EMC] Clariion CX units ship with at least one shelf of ATA disks. The difference now for NetApp is that they are officially embracing ATA technology for primary storage. It basically offers much more flexibility for users who have applications where, while they still might be primary storage, [they] don't need to [have the] performance, reliability and cost of Fibre Channel disks."

Entry FAS3000 configurations will have starting prices below US$35,000 and are available now. The V3000 series price starts at US$52,450. The NetApp V3020 and V3050 systems will be available in June.

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