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Nexsan launches denser SAN systems with more MAID

Nexsan rolls out the E series of Fibre Channel and iSCSI SANs, denser versions of its ‘Boy’ and ‘Beast’ systems with an added layer of AutoMaid disk spindown.

Nexsan Corp. today launched a new brand of midrange iSCSI and Fibre Channel SAN systems for its channel partners, adding a denser platform with more advanced disk spindown for power efficiency.

With the Nexsan E-series SAN system line, the vendor is getting away from its “Boy” and “Beast” naming scheme. Its new systems are the E18, E60 and E60X. Nexsan sells exclusively through the channel with more than 600 VARs, OEMs and integrators in its network.

The E18 is a 2U SAN system with 18 SAS drives or solid-state drives (SSDs). The E60 holds 60 SAS, SATA or SSDs in a 4U configuration, and the E60X is an expansion system with 60 drives in a 4U configuration but no controller. The systems are the next generation of Nexsan SASBoy and SATABoy 3U systems that hold 14 drives and the SASBeast and SATABeast models that hold 42 drives in 4U.

Nexsan also has a DataBeast product that combines SAS and SATA in one system.

Victoria Grey, Nexsan’s senior vice president of marketing, said the E series will not immediately replace any of the vendor’s existing products.

“We have a rabid customer following for Boys and Beasts,” she said. “There will be an overlap period when customers can still purchase Boys and Beasts.”

New features include Active Drawer Technology and a new level of the company’s AutoMaid disk spindown feature. Besides slowing drives and stopping their rotation, Nexsan’s AutoMaid now can turn off electronics for selected drives. The company claims it can recover operations of those drives within a minute.

Active Drawer Technology lets customers pull out a disk drawer and swap out a drive while the system is running, instead of pulling the entire system out of the rack.

The E18 and E60 SAN systems are available in early shipments with volume shipping planned in the next few months. The E60X has been available as expansion shelves for Boy and Beast customers for a year.

Pricing for the E18 starts at less than $45,000 for a single-controller system with nine 450 GB SAS drives and less than $58,000 for 18 600 GB SAS drives. A single-controller E60 starts at less than $52,000 for 20 1 TB SATA drives, less than $77,000 for 20 600 GB SAS or 60 1 TB SATA drives and less than $140,000 for 60 600 GB drives. A second controller costs about $12,000 for any E18 and E60 model.

School district happy with price, density, power savings

Brian Troudy, network manager for the Corona-Norco Unified School District in California, said he purchased an E60 with 40 SAS and 20 SATA drives after four months of beta testing. The district has used Nexsan as its primary storage vendor for two years, with about 180 TB of capacity on SASBeast, SATABeast and E60 systems.  All of his Nexsan systems are iSCSI.

Troudy said the E60 is easier to service and maintain than his SATABeasts, and he can now fit 60 drives in the same 4U space that held 42 drives of the older Nexsan storage. Troudy said he has always liked Nexsan storage for its price, ease of use, density and power-saving capabilities. He uses AutoMaid to save power on the SATABeast array that’s dedicated to storage for an IP video surveillance system and archiving. “We begin to archive at midnight, and during the day most of the disks on that array are spun down,” he said.

Before switching to Nexsan iSCSI storage, the Corona-Norco district used EMC Fibre Channel storage.

“The real driving factors for us were the cost per terabyte, as well as the ability to achieve power savings on arrays and maximize disk capacity on a rack,” he said. “We were never at full utilization with Fibre Channel SANs because of the cost of Fibre Channel, which is why we shifted to iSCSI. It’s now more cost -effective to add storage.”

Troudy said his district’s data grows at about 30% per year.

Nexsan growing up for IPO?

While other smaller storage vendors such as 3PAR, Compellent and Isilon have been getting acquired for large sums, Nexsan has been considering going public for three years. It first filed an S-1 for an initial public offering (IPO) in 2008 just as the IPO market dried up but has renewed the S-1 over the past three years. In the most recent filing in late January, Nexsan reported $68.9 million in revenue and a profit of $500,000 for 2010. That’s up from $49.8 million in revenue and a $3 million loss from its first filing in 2007 (Nexsan earned $3.5 million on $61 million in revenue in 2009 but increased spending last year).

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Peters said the new branding may help Nexsan change its perception of selling “cheap and deep” storage systems. “I think the biggest thing is that they’re trying to mature as an organization,” Peters said. “Hence, you don’t see the name ‘SATAAdult’ or whatever the next-gen name would be for SATABoy. You can find channel partners and customers who like those names and that approach, but gaining traction in new markets was difficult.”

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