Promise of storage for SMBs

Be it up-scaled NAS, down-scaled SAN or a mix of the two, the market of choice for storage vendors this year appears to be the small to medium-sized business. Drobo vendor Data Robotics started the ball rolling a couple of weeks back and now RAID specialist Promise has followed suit with two new SmartStor appliances, aimed expressly at SMBs and offering support for a mix of NAS and iSCSI SAN data sharing.

Be it up-scaled NAS, down-scaled SAN or a mix of the two, the market of choice for storage vendors this year appears to be the small to medium-sized business. Drobo vendor Data Robotics started the ball rolling a couple of weeks back and now RAID specialist Promise has followed suit with two new SmartStor appliances, aimed expressly at SMBs and offering support for a mix of NAS and iSCSI SAN data sharing.

Powered by a dual-core Intel Atom processor accompanied by 1GB of memory, the new SmartStor NSx700 Series is available as either a 6-Bay (NS6700) or 4-Bay (NS4700) appliance. That means up to 12TB of storage using ordinary 2TB SATA disks, which pop into place using the 3.5in hot-swap carriers provided.

RAID data protection comes as standard, Promise taking the technology found on its enterprise-class adapters and shoe-horning it into the new compact SmartStor appliances to deliver advanced functionality such as RAID 6, to cope with the simultaneous failure of two separate disks.

Other features include online RAID migration and capacity expansion, plus automatic bad sector handling. Another is so-called Predictive Data Migration (PDM), where data is automatically moved to a healthy spare disk if the Promise firmware detects potential problems, even though the array may, otherwise, appear to be functioning normally.

Network connectivity is via a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports, enabling the SmartStor to be shared on networks with a mix of Windows, Mac and Linux clients. In addition the appliance can be configured as an iSCSI SAN target, an increasingly common option on NAS boxes, with Promise claiming to be able to deliver up to 210MB/sec when deployed this way.

Management is via a built-in Web interface and, with the small business market in mind, the product comes with a number of backup tools. These include the ability to take volume snapshots to a reserved partition on the array and backup the server data to the Amazon S3 cloud. Client backup is also supported with Acronis Backup & Recovery bundled with the appliance.

On the downside there’s only one power supply and doesn’t seem to a rack-mount option plus, compared with some other NAS appliances, the SmartStor NSx700 seems a little light in terms of extra functionality. You do get a media server and a kind of storage firewall (based on IP address filtering), but that’s about it.

Prices, too, have yet to be announced and could determine the success or otherwise of the new Promise appliance in what looks set to become an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace.

Alan Stevens

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