Snap unveils higher-end storage system

The company upgrades its storage system to take on rival Maxtor and edge closer to higher-end products from market-leading Network Appliance.

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Snap Appliances has upgraded its storage system to take on rival Maxtor and edge closer to higher-end products from market-leading Network Appliance.

Compared with the company's earlier products, the new Snapserver ES12 increases storage capacity from 240GB to about 900GB. The price tag jumps too: from about $4,500 to $25,000, the company announced Monday.

Snap plans to sell the device to branch offices of large companies such as banks, said Jeff Hill, senior director of product marketing.

Snap Appliances, formerly known as Meridian Data, was acquired by hard disk and storage system maker Quantum, which decided to spin the company off again. In October, Snap filed to hold an initial public offering, led by Merrill Lynch and Salomon Smith Barney, hoping to raise about $100 million.

The company hopes to grab as much of the share of the market for network-attached storage--file servers that are used over ordinary computer networks--as it possibly can. Dataquest projects the market will grow to $7.3 billion by 2004, a size that has drawn increasing interest not only from storage companies but also from server makers such as IBM.

About 65,000 Snap servers have been sold so far, Hill said. The systems, like most server appliances, are designed to be easy to use.

Unlike competitor Maxtor, Snap stuck with FreeBSD as the basis for its operating system. Maxtor moved to a special-purpose version of Windows 2000, citing problems it had with backup-software availability, support for files greater than 2GB and missing support for features such as Microsoft's Active Directory or Novell Directory Services (NDS).

Snap, though, was able to take advantage of FreeBSD's file support, Hill said. While the ES12's data can be backed up to other systems, customers haven't needed to use the ES12 to actually run backup sessions, he said. Snap is "looking very closely" at Active Directory, he added.

"Yes we want to support it, but we're not sure if it's something we need immediately," he said. "A lot of customers ask us about it, but not that many have implemented it."

Dell Computer resells some Snap products under its own label, a deal that was announced shortly before the computer maker dumped a similar deal with Network Appliance. Dell also sells storage systems of its own design.