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Cisco slips out Atom-powered block and file box

Matching and exceeding HP

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Cisco is closely matching HP in the small business market with an Atom-powered unified file and block storage device.

Cisco's NSS 300 Smart Storage is a 2, 4 or 6-bay desktop storage product that can use either 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch hot-swap SATA drives.

It follows closely on the heels of HP's X300 DataVault. Why are both using the "300" moniker? That almost seems a deliberate similarity on somebody's part.

Both Cisco and HP power their respective boxes with 1.6GHz, dual-core Atom processors, but HP's is a NAS-only (network-attached storage) product with no RAID protection. The Cisco box offers more, including iSCSI block access and RAID 0, 1, 5 and 6 protection. There are five USB 2.0 and two eSATA ports.

Cisco is also giving it a (very) restricted server role, bundling in a web server with integrated WordPress blog publishing platform, a media server, iTunes server, syslog and RADIUS servers. There is a backup server which supports multiple backup modes, including PC/Macintosh to Smart Storage, server to Smart Storage, or Smart Storage to Smart Storage. There are additional applications available for download including Xdove (email server), Joomla (content management), SABnzbd+ (newsgroup reader), Magneto (e-commerce), Java, JRE6, Python, and IPKG.

The drives can be self-encrypting ones and can also spin down if energy-saving is a need. Cisco says NSS 300 setup and configuration is easy.

Cisco has small tower format NSS 2000 and 3000 products which still appear on its web site but only go up to a 4-bay capacity and would seem to be effectively replaced.

It's interesting that Cisco has high-end, converged, virtualised data centre and cloud ambitions, and famously wouldn't enter markets unless there was a $5bn opportunity; yet here it is, getting down and dirty in the low-end storage box-shifting market.

The small and medium business storage market gets more crowded by the day with virtually every supplier wanting a piece of it. There are a few, such as NetApp who are not interested though. Cisco's box appears better-equipped to go up against the feature-rich Iomega products than HP's Data Vault, with lots of things its channel partners can talk about.

The NSS 300 is priced at $915 for a no-drive, 2-bay box, and $5,625 for a 12TB, 6bay product. The entry-level pricing is more than the $600 or so needed for the smallest X300 Data Vault from HP. ®

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