While the NS20 supported only Fibre Channel or ATA drives, the NX4 can support SAS and SATA, and mix SAS and SATA drives on the same shelf – the same as the AX4. The NX4 also supports CIFS and NFS for files along with iSCSI for block storage.
Analysts pointed out that the NX4 is most likely to find its niche in a remote office scenario because it offers high-availability features, such a primary-standby configuration. "It has enterprise-class features that will make it appealing to EMC's existing customers for remote and branch offices," said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT.
"If this kind of configuration had been available prior to our AX install, we would have gone for this instead," he said. "We need NAS more than all the functionality of a full SAN."
Gunning for NetApp in the SMB market
Finding new standalone small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers for the Celerra line outside of EMC's existing base, however, might be another story. EMC's NS series has competed mostly against the larger of NetApp's two FAS2000 models, the FAS2050, as well as the FAS2000 versions rebranded by IBM, said Brad Bunce, director of Celerra product marketing.
But "the FAS2020 starts at a much smaller storage configuration than the NS20," Bunce said. The NX4's starting list price of $20,375 for 4 TB of SATA disk and one X-blade NAS head is down from $32,000 for the NS20 starting price, but still well above the FAS2020's entry price of $9,900 for 3 TB.
The NX4 does have some higher end features than its SMB competitors, though. Along with high-availability capability, the NX4 allows customers to intermix SAS and SATA drives within the same drive shelf. NetApp's FAS2000 series supports intermixing of drive types within the same enclosure, but not the same drive shelf. "It's important for a small company or branch office that might be starting with a single shelf to still be able to do tiered storage," King said.
The NX4 and FAS2000 include snapshot and thin provisioning at no extra charge and allow for remote management via a GUI or command line interface. The NX4 also includes automated volume management and monitoring software for free. EMC still requires different replication tools to manage Fibre Channel SAN and IP storage, and replication is a separate license for both the NX4 and FAS2020.
As with the NS20, EMC touts the NX4 as a "channel friendly" product and is rolling out an express configuration program for channel partners, which gives them predesigned configurations for entry-level, medium-sized and large environments.
But Gartner analyst Pushan Rinnen said there are no guarantees that this attempt at cracking the SMB channel will be more successful. "Both NetApp and EMC still face the challenge of penetrating SMBs," she said.
EMC storage partner Dell will also sell the NX4.