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Storage

NetApp announces products, partnerships

Growing data storage company Network Appliance unveils new products, along with joint efforts with Veritas Software and Cisco Systems.

Data storage company Network Appliance unveiled a host of new products, along with joint efforts with Veritas Software and Cisco Systems.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based NetApp, which has been on a roll but faces challenges from Microsoft and others, made the announcements Tuesday.

The new products include storage management software and data-protection technology, accompanied by upgraded storage devices. NetApp and storage software company Veritas said they plan to integrate products for data management, regulatory compliance and disk-based data backup. NetApp said it will certify storage systems with Cisco storage networking switches and sell the switches.

Roger Cox, an analyst with research firm Gartner, said the product announcements were "incremental" rather than revolutionary, but that they build on NetApp's leadership in so-called unified storage. Unified storage refers to technology for accessing data in two ways: at the "block" level, which is the way programs including Exchange view data; and through "file form," which is a higher-level approach to data, used by programs such as Microsoft Word.

NetApp seems "to be able to look ahead and see what's needed in the market before it's actually needed," Cox said. "They have good vision."

Traditionally, the two methods of data access have led organizations to use two distinct storage networking technologies. So-called network-attached storage (NAS) equipment provides file-level access using the Internet Protocol over common Ethernet networks, while more-specialized storage area networks (SANs) provide block-level access, generally using the Fibre Channel protocol.

Among the products NetApp announced are two higher-capacity, speedier storage devices that offer both block and file form data access. The company also unveiled an upgraded gFiler, a device for linking NAS and SAN technologies. The gFiler is now designed to work with IBM's Enterprise Storage Server line of disk arrays for SANs. NetApp said the gFiler product is in the final stages of completing an IBM compatibility and certification program and already works with SAN gear from Hitachi Data Systems.

In addition, NetApp said the gFiler now supports the emerging iSCSI interface, an alternative to the Fibre Channel protocol.

Another new NetApp product is software called "SnapMover," which aims to balance workloads among gFiler systems.

Also announced: a higher-capacity version of the company's NearStore R200 storage system, which uses lower-cost Serial ATA disk drives, as well as upgraded data replication software that supports more operating systems.

Aside from announcing new storage devices and software, Network Appliance said it improved on the data-protection technology known as redundant array of independent disks (RAID). The company said it built into its storage systems a "double-disk parity" mechanism it calls RAID-DP. Whereas previous versions of RAID allowed only one disk drive to fail with a guarantee of full data recovery, the patent-pending technology permits two to fail, NetApp said.

Cox said other companies, including Hewlett-Packard, have similar data-protection technology.

NetApp has some momentum behind it. According to market research firm IDC, NetApp's share of the worldwide market for disk storage systems rose to 3 percent in the second quarter of this year from 2.6 percent in the second quarter of 2002. Its revenue for disk storage systems increased 10 percent, to $142 million, according to IDC.

And for the quarter ended Oct. 31, NetApp posted a year-over-year revenue jump of 28 percent, to $275.6 million, while net income increased 206 percent, to $48.4 million.

But the company may have a tougher road ahead. Microsoft, with its new Windows Storage Server 2003 operating system software, has set its sights on the higher-end NAS market that Network Appliance has served. Hardware companies using the new software have recently begun to introduce products. And upstart storage companies with new NAS-like technologies have entered the market.

IDC predicts the overall disk storage systems market will grow modestly over the next several years, from $21.2 billion this year to $23.8 billion in 2007.