IBM releases new storage appliance

IBM announced Friday that it will begin shipping a new storage appliance using some of the industry's latest networking technology.

IBM introduced the IP Storage 200i appliance that takes advantage of the emerging iSCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface) standard for linking data storage systems over IP (Internet Protocol).

Most companies looking to create a SAN (storage area network) have relied on Fibre Channel and SCSI technology for sending information between storage devices and servers in a somewhat constrained fashion. The introduction of the iSCSI standard makes it possible for storage devices to connect to existing IP networks, making more information available to more parts of the network. In addition, the use of iSCSI makes it easier for administrators to manage their SAN systems remotely, according to a statement.

Among the large storage vendors, IBM has taken the lead by delivering an iSCSI-ready product early on in the technology's rollout. Medium and small business are expected to show the most interest in the 200i, according to analysts. An entry level version of the 200i will start at US$20,000. The product can be expanded form 108G-bytes to 1.74 T-bytes, IBM said in a statement.

The storage appliance will use Tivoli Storage Manager software to handle administration tasks.

This early move with iSCSI by IBM could provide a boon for the company in an evolving storage arena, said Tony Prigmore, senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Milford, Massachusetts.

About 80 percent of companies rely on a direct-attached storage model where servers can access information from a limited number of storage units. The direct-attached approach, however, is gradually giving way to SAN and NAS (network attached storage) environments that allow information to flow more freely across different hardware and come with a variety of data management tools not seen with direct-attached storage.

With so many companies only beginning their migration to networked storage, Prigmore said IBM's product could be a sound choice for smaller businesses, even though the appliance uses a young technology.

"This is a well-positioned product for a market that has a real need," Prigmore said. "If it was someone other than IBM coming out with an iSCSI product, you could wonder if it would be ready for the masses."

IBM should eventually roll out an iSCSI box for higher-end tasks that could attract larger customers, Prigmore said.

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