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EMC sharpens NetApp storage attack

The company releases a new storage system that combines the brains of its top-end Celerra system with the body of its midrange Clariion products.

EMC released a new storage system Wednesday to sharpen competition with leading rival Network Appliance and to simplify its own engineering.

The new NS600 is a network-attached storage (NAS) system that simplifies design challenges at EMC by combining the brains of its top-end Celerra system with the body of its midrange Clariion products.

For years Network Appliance led the NAS market, yielding it recently to EMC for a time but reclaiming the lead in the third quarter, according to IDC.

"It's clear to me they're going after NetApp," said Diane McAdam, a Data Mobility Group analyst. "They seem to have priced this rather competitively."

The NS600 has a starting price of $167,000 including one terabyte of capacity, EMC said.

NAS systems are networked devices that store files such as e-mail archives. Lower-end NAS systems are gussied-up collections of hard drives. But more sophisticated models offer faster speeds, less administration difficulty, redundancy and other features to sidestep hardware problems, and software to improve tasks such as data backup.

For years, EMC has sold its Celerra NAS system, which handles storage requests from servers but relies on other products such as EMC's top-end Symmetrix or midrange Clariion systems to actually store the data. The new NS600 uses the same operating system as the Celerra system, but employs the chassis and disk drive system of Clariion so it doesn't require an external storage system.

"They took Celerra, stripped it down, and bolted it in front of Clariion," McAdam said.

The NS600 replaces the IP4700 "Chameleon" product, though EMC will continue selling and supporting the older model, said Paul Ross, director of EMC's storage networks marketing.

The company retained some of the IP4700's features, such as its software management interface, but now uses Celerra's DART operating system instead of the IP4700's CrosStor operating system, Ross said.

"We've unified our operating system, our management and our engineering team," Ross said.

The unification makes sense, McAdam said. With its Symmetrix line, developed in-house, and its Clariion line acquired from Data General, EMC must support two lines with different software. Customers are faced with issues that their control programs written for one can't be used on the other, she said.

Ross argues that the NS600 has "high availability" features such as redundant internal components that will make the system competitive against NetApp's systems, two of which must be paired to get the same effect.

But NetApp is unfazed. "As usual, we were underwhelmed with (EMC's) system and look forward to seeing it if we actually encounter it at customer sites--as EMC's field has been less than successful in embracing new products," said Mark Santora, NetApp's senior vice president of marketing.