NAS Sales Benefit From Security Concerns, Convergence
NAS (network attached storage) sales will increase as end user concerns over security are diminished and the technology continues to converge with SANs (storage area networks).
Few products in recent years have gained acceptance as quickly as NAS (network attached storage). Although the numbers vary from analyst to analyst, NAS has been growing by double digits every year and is expected to continue growing. The ease of use and low cost of NAS have made it a popular choice for companies needing additional storage capacity. But the prospect of merging NAS with SANs (storage area networks), along with the demand for better data security, are what will continue to drive its growth in the future.
Users Keep Adding Servers
To understand the popularity of NAS, simply look at how companies used to add capacity. "Most companies start out with an application server," says Akshay Gupta, general manager of the NAS division for Iomega Corporation (San Diego). "As they run out of storage capacity, they add another one or two application servers. But eventually, as their storage needs continue to grow, they start deploying general purpose servers."
Gupta believes NAS has changed the way customers now add capacity. "NAS is a simple way to deploy additional storage for a customer," he says. "A NAS appliance is optimized for storage; it was not designed for other uses. A server has applications and a full-blown operating system [OS] running on it. The applications and OS are not needed by someone who is simply interested in adding additional capacity."
NAS/SAN Convergence Comes Into Play
Although NAS is an easy sale, selling it as a pure, stand-alone storage product may not be the best angle for VARs. "We see NAS becoming much more than simply additional capacity," says Bill Bedford, VP of marketing for Raidtec Corporation (Alpharetta, GA). "Storage technologies have evolved, and end users are now able to cover several bases of storage networking from a common platform. When people talk about SAN and NAS integration, they are talking about being able to move toward a common platform. Customers are looking for a storage platform that will do its specific function, but also cross over and provide multifunction capabilities."
Bedford notes that SAN/NAS convergence is actually an evolution, and that evolution starts with a single platform. Servers can scale and are performance- and price-competitive. NAS is as well, but it also allows for growth in ways servers can't. "If a customer has no need for a SAN, they can install a NAS file server and add capacity at a competitive price," he says. "But if the customer is putting the NAS appliance into a growing or more sophisticated environment and needs to be able to add SAN capabilities to it, they can do so by upgrading and expanding that same basic platform."
Security Is A Concern
Brian Cipponeri, director of business development for Xtore Extreme Storage (City Of Industry, CA), continues to hear from customers concerned about data security. "Direct attached storage is normally connected to a server or controller," he says. "Storage has never had to have any type of security implemented. But when a storage product is attached to the network, security becomes a concern. Suddenly your security is only as good as the network's security. If there is a wireless access point to the network, anyone walking by with a laptop could gain access to the data."
Cipponeri believes customers now want to know how they can make their NAS products more secure. Many customers that require secure data, such as banks, government agencies, and educational institutions, will not purchase NAS products. "These companies refuse to buy a network product for storage because they have special servers running security protocols," he says. "Those servers require direct attached storage. This has led many vendors to try to build proprietary security solutions into their NAS products."
An Easy Sale, But Customize To Add Value
Concerns over security have not kept end users from adopting NAS appliances. Bakul Joshi, VP of marketing for Ateonix Networks (Fremont, CA), believes VARs are selling NAS for the simple reason that it is already in many customer environments and customers still require additional capacity. "The economy may be experiencing a recession, but data growth is not. Storage continues to grow, the acceptance of NAS by end users continues to grow, and now is a great time for VARs interested in this technology to get on board."
Should VARs be concerned that the low cost and ease of integration might push NAS into the commodity hardware category and drive down reseller margins? Joshi doesn't think so. "Many NAS solutions can now be custom configured for customers," he says. "Our approach to NAS involves a diskless solution that allows VARs to choose what kind of drives [and capacity] they want to add to the solution. This gives VARs more choices and enables them to add value to every NAS solution they sell. As long as vendors allow VARs to add value to these solutions, NAS will be a profitable product for resellers."