Last week, Network Appliance (NetApp) turned up the heat in its competition for midrange storage customers when it released two new storage systems that NetApp believes will redefine the value/performance model for midrange storage.

NetApp claims that the newest members of the NetApp FAS3000 product line--the FAS3020 and FAS3050--will deliver up to twice the price/performance of the previous generation of NetApp's FAS storage line, and according to a VeriTest study, up to five times the performance of the comparable CLARiiON CX500 RAID 5 storage system from industry leader EMC. Note that NetApp uses its own RAID-DP (RAID Double Parity) technology instead of traditional RAID 5/RAID 10 data protection. RAID-DP is a double-parity data protection scheme that NetApp believes provides better protection and performance on large disk volumes. You can find technical details about RAID-DP here.

NetApp tells us that its customer base is demanding greater storage virtualization capabilities (to improve utilization of storage devices), better storage management, and a lower buy-in price. The new products meet these needs by providing two new V-Series storage virtualization engines, the NetApp V3020 and V3050; complete integration with the NetApp Data ONTAP 7G software; and the option to use Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives as primary storage--all in a very high-density package (up to 84TB and 336 disks). Given the price and capacity deltas between SATA and SCSI/Fibre Channel hard drives, customers can achieve significant economies by using SATA disks. Users who prefer more traditional storage at this level can opt for Fibre Channel drives. However, NetApp's position is that it can deliver this primary SATA storage without sacrificing the safety and integrity of the data stored on the FAS3000 devices. Other than the new Series 3000 storage products, the only other NetApp device to support this SATA option is the FAS960, part of the NetApp Filer Family.

NetApp asserts that the V3020 and V3050 storage virtualization engines offer major performance improvements over earlier virtualization products. When used with the Data ONTAP 7G software, the new V-Series products will let customers integrate storage devices from competitors such as IBM, HP, Sun Microsystems, and Hitachi Data Systems, so that the NetApp product line can be integrated into an existing midrange storage enterprise with minimal disruption of existing services.

In the wake of various industry studies showing that data growth--and managing that growth--are the biggest challenges that storage users face, the new NetApp products take solid aim at the problem by offering comprehensive storage management and virtualization capabilities that extend beyond NetApp's own platform and including the value-priced SATA hard-drive lines as a primary storage location. As hard-drive manufacturers focus much of their attention on increasing SATA drives' capacities and improving their reliability and performance, bringing these drives, and their associated cost benefits, into the high-end storage market is clearly a path that should be considered--not only by buyers who need to focus first on buy-in cost, but also by those looking to provide the greatest overall benefit to their storage environment.

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