Network Appliance focuses on data backup devices

Expanding its product line beyond the realm of primary storage devices, Network Appliance Inc. last week released the first member of a planned family of enterprise-class file servers for use in centrally backing up data from systems at multiple sites.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Network Appliance said the NearStore R100 can take data feeds from its own NetApp filers and from storage devices made by other vendors. The R100 scales from 12TB to 96TB and is aimed at giving users a single system for doing backups before archiving data on tape.

Jamie Gruener, an analyst at the Yankee Group in Boston, said the R100 is Network Appliance's first product focused squarely on data migration and backup. "What they're doing is offering a consolidated backup appliance," he said.

That sets Network Appliance apart from rivals such as IBM and Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp. on product positioning, Gruener said. And the R100's base price of US$240,000 is much lower than typical disk storage costs on a per-megabyte basis, he added.

Dianne McAdam, an analyst at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc., said Network Appliance was able to make the R100 cheaper by using less expensive disk technology than it puts in its flagship network- attached storage devices.

"These are not as high-performing disks as you would see in other NetApp filers, and the idea is that they don't have to be [because of the focus on backup uses]," McAdam said.

Network Appliance in December detailed its plans to field a line of backup devices. As part of last week's release of the R100, the company introduced several data backup and recovery software tools for use with the new file server. Network Appliance said the R100 will also work with storage management software developed by 10 other vendors.

Ray Villeneuve, vice president of marketing at Network Appliance, said the vendor hopes to convince companies that have multiple remote offices to off-load data backup from distributed tape libraries.

In addition to backup applications, the R100 can be used to set up online archives of data that doesn't need to be accessed frequently, Network Appliance said. Examples include product design drawings, historical financial data and billing records.

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