Compaq, IBM deliver on promised net storage plans

Compaq Computer and IBM are stepping up their presence in the storage area network (SAN) market.

Compaq this week delivered on portions of its Enterprise Network Storage Architecture (ENSA) strategy, and IBM is set to add several pieces to its SAN offering at next week's PC Expo show in New York.

At the centre of Compaq's announcement is its StorageWorks Virtual Replicator, a storage management tool for Windows NT environments.

The Virtual Replicator is designed to let users group physical storage arrays into logical, virtual pools of storage that behave similar to real disks. This lets system administrators tailor disk space to the requirements of their users and applications, allowing companies to scale their storage based on their actual needs, according to company officials.

The second major aspect of StorageWorks, according to Mike Good, director of strategic marketing and business development for Compaq's storage products division, in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, is the ability to take "snapshots," or point-in-time representations of virtual disks.

Administrators can then utilise the snapshots to carry out storage backup or restoration without taking the time to physically copy the storage or take it offline, Good added.

Also to be announced are several hardware products aimed at expanding the capacity of Compaq's ENSA solution and simplifying storage in remote offices.

These include two tape libraries compatible with the entire Compaq server line, an auto loader that allows customers to automatically back up data and applications in satellite offices, and a high-capacity disk drive with twice the capacity of previous Compaq offerings.

According to Good, the announcement is a big step toward providing storage solutions "from the desktop to the data centre."

"The [ENSA] strategy we laid out in November was a multiyear project, and I think these products put us a good deal ahead of schedule already," Good said.

The sum of all of these parts, according to David Hill, a senior analyst for storage and storage management at the Aberdeen Group, in Boston, should make life easier for administrators and users alike and is a very positive step for Compaq's overall storage strategy.

"It will be a big help to a lot of people in the [Windows] NT environment," Hill said of the solution.

Another vendor looking to strengthen its network storage offerings is IBM, which is planning to introduce new storage enclosures, tape backup units, Fibre Channel-to-SCSI bridges, and Fibre Channel switches at PC Expo.

The company will also formally announce Netfinity Availability Extensions for Microsoft Cluster Server. This collection of announcements will allow IBM to accelerate its push toward a complete enterprise storage solution, company officials said.

All of the Compaq products are available immediately, with pricing for Compaq's StorageWorks Virtual Replicator set at $US1,495 per NT server.

Pricing and availability for IBM's new storage offerings is not yet available.

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