Microsoft, Dell team up on NAS/iSCSI array

The array is aimed at competing with NetApp's FAS250 array

Dell and Microsoft today announced a storage array that can serve up either file or block-based data and has software that supports features such as data snapshots and replication.

Designed for small and midsize businesses, the Dell PowerVault NX1950 comes loaded with Microsoft Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003, offering file server and IP storage-area network (SAN) support based on the iSCSI protocol.

The PowerVault NX1950 comes in single or two-node cluster configurations and includes a redundant back-end storage array -- the new Dell MD1000 -- scaling up to 45 serial-attached SCSI (SAS) drives and 13.5TB capacity. The MD1000 supports up to four host servers.

Microsoft obtained the iSCSI driver for the array from its acquisition of String Bean Software in June.

The array also supports CIFS (Windows) and NFS (Linux, Unix, and Macintosh) protocols, and it has security and mapping functions familiar to Windows and Unix administrators. The NX1950 also comes with Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 capabilities, such as single-instance storage, full indexed text search, distributed file services, and management of user quotas, file screening and storage reports.

Eric Endebrock, senior manager of Dell Enterprise Storage, said the array's SAS drives offer a combined 92,000 I/O per second from four SAS ports. Endebrock said the NX1950 is designed to compete against Network Appliance Inc.'s FAS250 and FAS270 arrays.

"We're getting great performance for a cluster that can be very highly available," Endebrock said. "It's very affordable for customers to get into using the serial-attached SCSI drives.

Bala Kasiviswanathan, group product manager for Windows Storage at Microsoft, said administrators can manage their volumes, create shares for NFS or CIFS and manage their iSCSI target all from a single interface.

Another first for Microsoft is the array's automated clustering capability.

"So people can set up multinode clusters of these devices and really have a highly available solution," Kasiviswanathan said, adding that the clusters scale up to four nodes.

"Last but not least, we've added remote management capability for this box from a non-Windows client," he said.

Early in 2007, Dell and Microsoft plan an upgrade to the NX1950 that will allow greater clustering and drive expansion, as well as adding Fibre Channel SAN gateway capabilities.

The NX1950 starts at about $17,000. A 4.5TB configured array starts at about $24,000.

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