NetApp offers new arrays for smaller businesses

FAS 2020 and FAS 2050 with limited SAS drive support.

NetApp has, as predicted, announced its new FAS 2020 and FAS 2050 storage arrays. They use serial-attached SCSI (SAS) drives, a first for NetApp, but only internally. Expansion shelves can only use Fibre Channel or Serial ATA (SATA) drives.

The FAS 2020 can have up to 24TB of storage spread across 40 drives with SAS drives internal to the controller and either Fibre Channel (FC) or SATA drives in the expansion shelves.

The larger FAS 2050 is an up to 69TB product (104 drives) with the same usage of SAS and FC or SATA drives.

The rest of the basic speeds and feeds information is that the products can have a single controller plus a second one for high-availability configurations. The systems can be presented as network-attached storage (NAS filers), or either FC or iSCSI block-level storage area network (SAN)s. They can also be used as virtual tape libraries (VTL) with the products emulating a physical tape library.

Each controller has two gigabit Ethernet and two 4Gbit/s FC ports and onboard remote management facilities. The two systems run NetApp's Data ONTAP operating system and can have RAID 6 data protection plus the gamut of NetApp's protection facilities based on snapshots. They also have A-SIS de-duplication and thin-provisioning to reduce physical disk space needs.

With FlexVol technology in ONTAP NetApp storage, such as the FAS 2000 arrays, is virtualized and can be provisioned to VMware virtual machines in minutes.

SAS drives represent an upgrade path from parallel Ultra320 SCSI drives and provide near-Fibre Channel performance, faster than SATA.

Asked about the exclusion of SAS disks from the expansion shelves John Rollason, NetApp's EMEA solutions marketing manager, said: "It's a SAS connectivity problem," but couldn't add any more detail.

David Trossell, CEO of protocol bridge firm Bridgeworks, was asked what he thought about this. He speculated: "The SATA and SAS physical infrastructures are on the whole identical -- so it's not a physical restriction. If they are using SAS internally then is not a software issue."

"If they are using external connections then to access all the individual drives, this is going to create a mass of connections. They could (possibly) reduce the amount of cabling to connect all these drives by putting some raid intelligence within the expansion cabinets, and use Fibre Channel as the interconnectivity between controller and expansion racks. (Then) the reason they are not supporting a SAS expansion unit is that they may not have a cost effective FC to SAS controller."

Rollason said that SAS expansion shelves would be coming in the future.

The FAS 2020 replaces the existing 16TB FAS 270 product. Expansion shelves for that product can be used with the 2020. By replacing the I/O controller the FAS 270 main unit can itself be turned into a FAS 2000 expansion shelf.

The smaller 4.2TB FAS 250 remains as a viable product. The FAS 2050 fills a storage capacity/performance gap between the FAS 270 and the 84TB FAS 3020.

NetApp is positioning these machines for mid-range businesses with between 100 and 1,000 employees, saying that their storage needs are now much more akin to those found in enterprise products than in smaller enterprise arrays such as NetApp's StoreVault line or Dell's AX products. Such medium businesses buy from storage resellers and the FAS 2000 products are available through NetApp's channel.

Rollason said VMware was vital in this medium enterprise market: "We're seeing explosive growth in virtual servers attached to virtual storage. Anything more than bog-standard consolidation needs networked storage. There will be more integration between VMware and NetApp in the future. Yes; absolutely. We might see automation of the provisioning of a virtual machine with a virtual LUN to provision storage in seconds."

Entry-level list prices for the FAS 2020 and 2050 are US$12,100 and $24,920 respectively. With entry-level prices for the FAS 250 and 270 being US$15,940 and US$17,420 respectively, NetApp has initiated a price cut.

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