ADIC Finds a Cheap Storage Home for Static Data

SAN FRANCISCO (04/17/2000) - U.S. storage specialist Advanced Digital Information Corp. (ADIC) later today is set to announce StorNext, a range of NAS (network attached storage) devices. The appliances are aimed at IT departments in search of a way to off-load static data from their servers while still retaining cheap, rapid and direct end-user access to such data.

Static data, as distinct from active data, is information that is infrequently accessed by users - probably less than once a month. If such static data remains on a user's general-purpose servers, it tends to hog valuable storage space that could be better used by active data which users are accessing often.

NAS appliances are specialized devices optimized for data storage. Previous NAS devices have excelled in handling the storing of active data, but haven't fully addressed the issue of static data, according to Steve Whitner, ADIC director of marketing.

"StorNext is a bridge between traditional online NAS devices and offline tape.

It's the first real implementation of tape NAS," Steve Duplessie, senior analyst with The Enterprise Storage Group Inc., based in Milford, Massachusetts, said in a recent phone interview. "We estimate as much as 50 percent of user data is good candidate for this technology."

For example, as hard disks get full, network administrators tend to ask end-users to delete all their unnecessary e-mail messages as a way to free up much needed hard disk space. However, often users find they've deleted messages that contained important information that they were keen to keep to refer to at a later date, ADIC's Whitner said.

In the same way, hospitals need to store radiological images that they are likely to want to refer to from time to time, while government departments, law firms and insurance companies are often required by law to keep vast amounts of data on file for long as 10 years, according to Duplessie.

Network administrators in the past have stored static data on devices that cannot be directly accessed by users. Once a user requests some of that static data, it can take hours or days for the administrator to locate the information and make it available to the user.

With StorNext, end-users will be able to directly access static data held on the device in a matter of seconds or a maximum access time of 1 minute, ADIC's Whitner said.

The StorNext appliances plug into any port on a network switch and hub and are configured by a network administrator via a remote browser-based console. The administrator partitions the total available storage through a Web interface into user-defined volumes and assign user permissions based on storage needs in the network, Whitner said.

The devices can handle Windows, Unix or Web client data, Whitner said. When a user accesses a StorNext device, it's as though they are accessing traditional general-purpose servers and they can browse and manage the files through software like Microsoft Corp.'s Explorer file manager. ADIC also makes available an application-specific interface for accessing the StorNext data, he added.

Data is written to StorNext through a cache at local disk speed, while the StorNext controller writes it to tape in background mode. When files are accessed from StorNext, the device's management system writes the requested files back into cache for user access, Whitner said. File data on StorNext is automatically protected by a daily backup and a real-time journal written to an integrated flash disk, he added.

The first three devices in the StorNext family - workgroup, enterprise and data center -- which the company is announcing today have capacity ranges from 950G bytes to close to 23.6T bytes, according to Whitner. The workgroup appliance has a storage capacity from 950G bytes to 1.9T bytes, managing 10 million files; the enterprise device's capacity ranges from 3.9T bytes to 7.9T bytes, managing 15 million files; and the data center appliance has from 11.8T bytes to 23.6T bytes of storage capacity, managing 25 million files, he added.

ADIC also estimates that StorNext is much cheaper than traditional enterprise-class NAS devices where the cost of storing data works out at between 25 and 50 U.S. cents per M byte compared to StorNext's 1 to 4 cents per M byte, according to Whitner.

The company plans more additions to the StorNext family offering both wider capacity ranges and application-specific user interfaces, Whitner said. "Future additions will have built-in file replication and we'll also allow versioning," he added.

One area where ADIC needs to tread carefully -- which could also prove to be something of an expensive proposition -- is in educating the marketplace about the company's new devices, analyst Duplessie said. "People today think disk when they think NAS, not tape," he said. "However, StorNext is a very inexpensive proposition and has good channel appeal."

The first three StorNext appliances will be available at the end of this month from ADIC VARs (value-added resellers) and will come with a three-year warranty and a full year of on-site service from ADIC. The devices are likely to be priced from $35,000, Whitner said.

ADIC, based in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-881-8004 or via the Internet at http://www.adic.com/.

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