Network-attached storage lines debut (Part I)

Hewlett-Packard Co. today will unveil a new line of networked-attached storage products for CD- and DVD-ROM discs aimed at improving management of and access to agency data.

The SureStore CD- and DVD-ROM servers connect directly to local-area networks, a design that allows discs to be accessed from multiple computing platforms and relieves traffic to and from a network's file server. Other companies recently have been marketing NAS solutions, but industry observers said HP's entry into the market legitimizes the technology.

"They're putting their stamp of approval on network-attached storage," said Farid Neema, president of Peripheral Concepts, Santa Barbara, Calif. "It does give support to a technology that up until recently was seen as an oddball."

According to Jerry McFaul, a U.S. Geological Survey computer scientist who heads the Special Interest Group on CD Applications and Technology Foundation, NAS solutions from all vendors "have a big potential marketplace in the government because the government houses so much data."

He said one selling point for the technology is the ability for users to access the data from a NAS server through an intranet or the World Wide Web.

McFaul said his agency is looking at several NAS systems. "It all comes down to how quickly you need the information at your fingertips," he said. "If it's on random-access media [like CD- or DVD-ROM], then it's significantly more accessible than if it were on a large tape system."

HP plans to offer three versions of the product: an entry-level CD-ROM server, a CD-ROM Server Plus that contains an 18G hard disk cache and a CD/DVD-ROM server equipped with next-generation DVD-ROM drives, rather than CD-based drives.

Each server supports up to 14 disc drives, but the hard disk cache allows users to store the contents of 28 more discs to expand capacity or increase data access time. An earlier HP product, also called the SureStore CD-ROM Server, did not offer this feature.

Neema said the earlier product "was not very successful" and that HP seems to have improved it, in part by ensuring that it works well simultaneously across different network operating systems. The servers support Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT, Novell Inc.'s NetWare, OS/2 Warp and Unix environments but not Token Ring or Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh networks.

The servers allow 50 users to have access at the same time and support 300 passive connections.With this product launch, HP is beginning a push into the evolving networked-storage market.

Daryl Wong, technical marketing manager with HP, said NAS is "highly complementary" with emerging storage area network products, which are used to link multiple storage servers to a central device. HP has previously introduced SAN solutions.

"We believe HP is really a company that can integrate [NAS and SAN] in a strategic way," said Michelle Weiss, HP's NAS solutions marketing manager.

Along with its NAS announcement, HP is also introducing several other products, including a "one button" solution for disaster recovery, which Wong said eliminates the need for network administrators to do separate backups of network configuration and user data.

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