At first glance, HP's newly-announced StorageWorks X500 Data Vault range of NAS devices bear more than a passing resemblance to its recently-updated range of MediaSmart Servers that are powered by Windows Home Server (WHS). Closer inspection reveals them to be almost identical, the crucial difference being that the X500 is aimed squarely at what HP calls 'small and emerging businesses'.
HP's StorageWorks X500 Data Vault supports up to 13.5TB of Windows Home Server-powered storage (including internal and external drives).
The X500 is housed a pint-sized mini-tower chassis and, according to the datasheets on HP's US web site, is powered by a 2.5GHz Pentium E5200 CPU and up to 2GB of unbuffered ECC DDR2 RAM. There are four internal SATA drive bays, two or three of which are free depending on the model, each of which can be fitted with a 1.5TB drive. Four USB 2.0 ports and an eSata port allow external drives to expand this up to a quoted maximum of 13.5TB.
HP is pushing the X500 range as a combined storage, sharing and backup solution for smaller businesses with limited IT support. Starting from €487 (~£443), it's intended as a lower-cost alternative to NAS devices such as Buffalo Technology's Terastation III. HP claims that the X510 Data Vault model costs 22 percent less than the 2TB version of Buffalo's product.
The X500 Data Vault is aimed at businesses with up to 10 PC (or Mac) clients and should offer the full range of WHS features, including remote file access, remote desktop, fully-automated client backup and UPnP media streaming. WHS is based on Windows Server 2003 R2, with proprietary Microsoft modifications to the data storage subsystem to enable hot-plug expansion and robust drive failure protection. It's designed to run headless, with all management carried out via a remote web console applet.
HP provides custom add-ins to the WHS console in its consumer products, and this video on HP's US site seems to indicate that most of those features are also present in the X500 series.
This is a fascinating development in the rather ragged history of Windows Home Server — a technically interesting product that has failed to gain traction with consumers since its launch in 2007 (largely the result of a string of software hiccups and the reluctance of hardware manufacturers to buy into the concept). But WHS is a product with some powerful underlying technology that could well be more attractive to small businesses than consumers. However, it remains to be seen whether Windows Home Server is ready to undergo a business makeover.