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Smart Shopper: Users voice concern over manageability of NAS

A survey conducted by SearchStorage on midrange NAS systems found that users are more interested today in the manageability of NAS than features like snapshot.

NAS might be one of the fastest growing areas of the storage market today, but users say there's still plenty of room for improvement of this technology.

In the first of a series of Smart Shopper surveys, polled more than 120 users on their opinions of midrange NAS products.

Table of contents

Vendor satisfaction survey: Midrange NAS

NAS buying tips: Common sense approach to buying NAS

Ranked No. 1: NetApp's FAS900 series

Ranked No. 2: Sun's StorEdge 5310

Ranked No. 3: HP's Proliant Storage Server NAS DL585

Ranked No. 4: EMC's Celerra NS series

Ranked No. 5: Adaptec's Snap Server 18000

Ranked No. 6: Procom Technology's NetForce 4000 series

In order to create the survey, we spoke to a handful of NAS experts who helped identify the leading midrange NAS vendors. We also defined the midrange category as the following: Falls in the 10-50TB range; costs more than $25K; are standalone boxes (not clustered, grid, etc.); includes some advanced software; does not include BlueArc high-performance mega boxes; does not include Nexsan low-end SATA arrays. Note that this is not an exact science and only our interpretation based on conversations with storage experts.

The vendors and products we included in the survey are: Network Appliance Inc.'s FAS900 series, Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StorEdge 5310, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Proliant Storage Server NAS DL585, EMC Corp.'s Celerra NS series, Adaptec's Snap Server 1800 and Procom Technology's NetForce 4000 series.

Over half the companies who took the survey said that manageability and ease of use were the most important criteria in their product selection process. Interestingly, point-in-time copy, or snapshot capabilities, once a key differentiator among NAS vendors, was less important. It's possible that Microsoft's inclusion of this functionality in Windows Server 2003 has made snapshot technology a standard offering.

It comes as no surprise that vendor support was rated the highest priority among 72% of respondents. Of the 20 or so NetApp users who took the survey, 75% strongly agreed that the company's products experience very little downtime and were easy to get up and running. They were less impressed with the price of NetApp's gear, however, with only half agreeing that it delivers good value for money. Also on the downside, only about half the respondents said the company's products meet their capacity needs.

NetApp's acquisition of Spinnaker supposedly addresses the lack of scalability of its file system, which currently forces users to buy a new appliance, which means a second file system to manage, each time the one they have fills up. Spinnaker's distributed file system gets around this issue, but NetApp bought the company several years ago and still hasn't fully integrated the technology.

In the EMC Celerra camp were 24 companies who were as satisfied with the product's reliability as NetApp's users were with its systems but similarly less enamored of the price. In addition, almost half the number of Celerra customers polled in the survey found EMC's warranty period to be unacceptable. Overall, they felt the products features and functionality met their needs.

For a more detailed look at the survey results including how the users ranked the vendors, click here.

This article originally appeared on

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