2 October 2002 Network attached storage (NAS) specialist Network Appliance (NetApp) has unveiled a new storage device that, it claims, can handle data transfers across both NAS and storage area networks (SANs), which consolidate data on a single, dedicated fibre channel network.
This means that new NetApp customers will no longer have to buy additional storage hardware to carry out NAS file sharing and ‘block level’ data storage – the most widely deployed mechanism for handling business applications data across SANs.
However, NetApp’s new FAS900 series device amounts to a tacit admission that it cannot ignore the fast growing SAN market, of which the company has been a vehement critic in the past. Previously, analysts viewed NAS and SANs as competing technologies, but both are now being increasingly integrated together across large enterprise storage networks.
NetApp has delivered the capability for FAS900 to handle both fibre channel-based SAN and Ethernet-based connections simultaneously via an upgrade to the company’s Data ONTAP operating system.
This new product comes at a vital time for NetApp. Once the dominant supplier of NAS devices, it has seen its market share rapidly eroded by storage giant EMC. In 2001, NetApp’s share of the NAS market dropped dramatically to 35% from 50% a year earlier, while EMC’s market share jumped from 36% to 50% during the same period, according to figures from research group Gartner.
One of the reasons for NetApp’s precipitous drop in market share, says Gartner analyst Roger Cox, is that EMC had successfully pitched its high-end Celerra file server product to its vast base of customers as an add-on to their Symmetrix high-end disk array infrastructures.
Meanwhile, NetApp has also announced that software giant Microsoft has approved the use of its hardware with Microsoft’s Exchange email server. Microsoft’s decision to list NetApp hardware on its hardware compatibility list ends a long-running dispute between the two companies. It is also a valuable endorsement for NetApp because Microsoft Exchange Server is one of the most commonly used applications with its NAS devices.