Intel leans on EMC to bring low-end storage to the masses

Its SS4200x features hardware-only and software models

Intel on Tuesday introduced the Intel Entry Storage System SS4200x, its new channel-distributed storage product built for small-to-midsize businesses and home offices.

The Intel storage device, code-named "Helena," will be offered in two distinct flavors: The SS4200-EHW model, which is a hardware-only version, and the SS4200-E model, which features software integration, said Seth Bobroff, director of marketing for storage at Intel.

Both models of the Intel Entry Storage System will be available next month; pricing will begin at around $500, said Bobroff.

The SS4200x architecture is based on the Intel Celeron 400 Series Processor with Double Data Rate 2 memory and the 945GZ Express chip set and an ICH7-R chip set. Starting out with a four-disk-drive configuration, the system features an external Serial Advanced Technology Attachment port for future storage expansion.

The processor manufacturer's diminutive storage box is designed to give small and midsize businesses and home-office users with limited storage expertise and resources the ability to better manage and control growing data requirements, said Bobroff. Typically, storage capacities for those groups are being squeezed by increasing usage and longer-term storage of digital photos, videos, music and documents.

Bobroff said Intel's S4200-E storage box was developed "from the ground up" in close partnership with EMC Corp. As part of that relationship, the device features integration with EMC's Lifeline software. Strictly available on an manufacturer basis, Lifeline provides the operating system and application layers needed for the device to function as a network-attached storage (NAS) system, according to a spokesman for Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC.

Lifeline powers a number of software and services within the Intel storage shell casing, including integration of EMC Retrospect backup for connected PCs, content index and search tools, Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh client support, and preset RAID data protection.

EMC's entrance into the low-end small/home office (SOHO) arena shouldn't come as a surprise. At EMC's user conference earlier this year, CEO Joseph Tucci said his company was heavily weighing the possibility of branching out its storage wares into the consumer market.

Intel's hardware-only SS4200-EHW model has been validated with Windows Home Server. Bobroff said that third-party storage software vendors, including FalonStor Software, Wasabi Systems and Internet SCSI storage-area network (SAN) provider Open-E GmbH, are currently developing technology that runs on the SS4200-EHW.

The scramble by IT vendors to provide simplified and centralized storage for small and midsize businesses and home-office end users is heating up. While introducing his company's low-end iSCSI-based MD3000i SAN in September, Dell CEO Michael Dell criticized larger storage vendors for failing to tailor their storage products for smaller and less skilled customers.

Coincidentally, over the past few weeks, storage vendors such as Network Appliance, Hitachi Data Systems and EMC have all introduced downsized storage offerings toward achieving that goal.

"Everybody is going after this larger opportunity down in the lower-end of the [small and midsize business] space," said Bobroff. Large storage and system vendors, he added, "are all trying to create solutions that are simpler and easier to use to compensate for a lack of [storage] expertise in that space. I don't know if anyone has the magic formula yet."

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Brian Fonseca

Computerworld

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