IBM's new storage device offers SMBs high-bandwidth option

IBM's System Storage DS4700 Express offers small and medium-sized businesses with high-bandwidth needs an affordable solution, but companies should work with resellers to get the most out of their purchase.

IBM has announced a new high-bandwidth storage device priced for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

The System Storage DS4700 Express, which features front-to-back-end 4 gigabits per second (Gbps) technology, is aimed at midsized companies and smaller businesses that process a lot of rich-content data.

Craig Butler, IBM's brand manager for disk storage product marketing, said the DS4700 Express will appeal to businesses that handle streaming media, medical imaging and queries that return large bursts of data, such as finance and insurance companies. Butler said the device will also allow for swift system backups.

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IBM has attached the word Express to the name of the product, which places it in the company's ever-expanding catalog of Express products aimed at the competitive SMB market.

Butler described the DS4700 as the little brother of last year's DS4800, which offers similar technology but features larger cache options and supports up to 224 drivers versus the 112 supported by the DS4700. The new DS4700 is also priced for the smaller business, starting at $19,449, versus the DS4800, which begins at around $50,000.

"Compared to the model that came out last year, [the DS4700] offers pretty close to the total host-channel bandwidth," said Stephanie Balaouras, a senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. "For a lot of the same performance characteristics, it's almost a no-brainer."

Balaouras said the DS4700 is still very much a midsized solution. She said companies with 500 or fewer employees may not need something this powerful. However, anybody who is working with rich content, such as a small digital media company, might find the DS4700 hits the spot.

The midsized storage market remains highly competitive, Balaouras said. EMC Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., Hitachi Data Systems Corp. and Network Appliance Inc. are all battling for market share. She said each company continues to release new solutions in an effort to stay ahead of each other in the SMB market. But, Balaouras added, IBM is probably the leader in end-to-end 4 Gbps storage technology.

Balaouras said that to get the most out of the 4Gbps DS4700, a company would have to make sure the rest of its storage area network (SAN) has 4 Gbps fiber channel technology as well. She said the DS4700 will auto-negotiate down to the lowest speed on the network, such as 1 Gbps or 2 Gbps. This will allow companies to continue to derive value from their existing SAN, but upgrading the entire environment to 4 Gbps will allow SMBs to get the most out of the DS4700.

Balaouras said SMBs should discuss this issue with IBM resellers and business partners. She said those resellers should be able to offer SMBs other necessary components, as well as professional services and advice on designing or upgrading SANs.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Writer

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