VA Linux Systems Ventures into Storage

Linux hardware specialist VA Linux Systems Inc. made its first foray into storage solutions Tuesday with the introduction of the VA Linux 9205 NAS (network-attached storage) system, an ultradense 2U storage appliance.

The 3.5-inch high appliance, starting at less than $29,300 for 180GB of storage, is scalable to 2.1 terabytes in an ultradense 8U form factor or more than 10TB in a standard 42U rack. The chassis, developed by VA Linux just this year, fits eight 1.6 inch drives into a 2U enclosure. Most of the players in the NAS space require about 4U to contain the same number of disks.

The 9205 NAS is a file sharing solution targeted at e-businesses in ISP data centers where space is at a premium. VA Linux Systems said it offers seamless file sharing across multiple platforms — including Linux, UNIX, Windows and Mac OS — enabling transparent file access in heterogeneous network environments.

“VA Linux is bringing the power of Open Source software — reliability, innovation and reduced costs — to the NAS market,” said Ali Jenab, senior vice president and general manager of VA Linux’s Systems Division. “E-businesses today need to manage and store more data than ever before, and Open Source is the key to keeping up with this rapid pace. VA Linux is re-defining the storage market by bringing scalable Open Source NAS solutions to our customers, and backing them with an extensive, best-of-class service and support package.”

The company said the 9205 NAS is designed to maximize uptime and reliability through the following features:

  • The system uses a serial console setup wizard to connect it to an existing Ethernet network in minutes, a Web-based GUI for administration, and is able to be upgraded with additional storage on the fly
  • It features Global Status Monitoring for remote management, including built-in “phone-home” capabilities that send e-mail to VA Linux tech support and to customer sites at the first sign of problems
  • It is shipped with RAID 5 (a number of disk drives used in combination to provide fault tolerance and increased performance, RAID 5 provides data striping at the byte level and stripe error correction) including a hot spare for redundancy with battery backup for cache protection; the 9205 NAS is also the first enterprise-level product to offer the ext3 journaling file system, which provides improved data integrity and recovery in the event of power interruptions
  • The system allows tape drives and libraries to be attached directly for high-performance, LAN-free data backup, and is qualified to work with Workstation Solutions’ Quick Restore, an NDMP-based data backup and recovery solution that enables local backup as well as backup from the 9205 NAS to a UNIX/Linux backup server for centralized enterprise data protection
  • The company will provide access to the 9205 NAS software on the SourceForge Storage Foundry, a resource on storage-related software projects.

“A lot of people have some of these features, but we’ve pulled it all into one product,” said Gregg Zehr, vice president of Engineering at VA Linux. “If you think of NAS, what people want to be able to do is take a system out of a box, plug it into their Ethernet and be up and running very quickly.”

While the NAS market is not new and has amassed quite a number of competitors, VA Linux is confident that it will do well in the market. The company is predicting that by 2005 Open Source NAS can capture about 55 percent of the market.

“Open Source NAS is going to really put the squeeze to small, closed source proprietary vendors,” Zehr said.

Zehr said the company expects high-end vendors like Net Appliance, EMC and Hitachi to continue to dominate their area, but VA Linux’s low total cost of ownership, high-density chassis and cu

stomer support will win over customers of lower-priced proprietary solutions.

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