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NetApp discontinues SMB storage line

The announcement on NetApp's website last weekend that S-family boxes are to be replaced with new FAS2020 bundles is making many customers unhappy.

NetApp Inc. quietly notified users via its online support forums over the weekend that it will discontinue its S-family -- previously known as StoreVault -- entry-level storage products.

NetApp issued the following statement to customers of its S family products, which read in part:

For your information and planning, this notice is meant to inform you about some NetApp products that have come to the end of their availability and/or some products that are no longer available from our suppliers.

This notice announces end of availability of S family/S550 systems. Starting with the March 2009 release of eConfigurator in CE/PE, the S family/S550 systems will no longer be available for quoting and sale. Actual last quote, order and ship date will be limited to quantity-available-on-hand for S family/S550 systems. Date subject to change without prior notice.

Suggested alternatives for S family/S550 systems:

FAS2020 systems are the ideal alternative replacements for the S family / S550 systems.

NetApp will launch new FAS2020 bundles to target the MSE market. These bundles will be available through our channel partners in February 2009 and will readily address S-family customers' requests within midsize businesses for additional product features and cost-effective price/performance.

NetApp said it will continue to support S550 hardware through 2012 should users choose to keep the product. Customers can purchase up to three years of warranty and support extension. NetApp is also offering users of the S550 an upgrade program to FAS2020 entry-level configurations. The S550 replaced the S500 and S300 products a year ago.

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Robert Miles, IT director for the Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., said it bothers him that the S500 is not included in the upgrade program although it is less than two years old. "The $6,500 I put into this product is a ton of money for my business," he said. "Now I feel like that's down the tubes. It's a great product and I love it, but now I can't go forward with it." Even if it were included in the upgrade program, Miles said, any upgrade would cost some money.

Along with other customers in NetApp's S-family community forums, Miles also expressed dismay that NetApp apparently has no plans to add Windows 2008 support to the S550. "Even as a small business, we're still on Windows 2003 now—and it's already a six-year-old operating system," he said.

He added, "The main reason I bought StoreVault was the NetApp name. It was a big investment for me, but they're NetApp—they're going to be around."

One storage analyst said that while he undestands NetApp's desire to streamline product offerings in a down economy, he would've liked to see the platform continue. It was "a line that I thought had a great value proposition for the low-end SMB, high-end SOHO or departmental market segments, however, also a product line that was perhaps a bit too distinct from the balance of the NetApp product family and channel/partner distribution model," StorageIO founder and analyst Greg Schulz wrote in an email to "I too would have liked to have seen the product continue and even be extended as both a brand and technology."

He added, "an affordable entry-level solution like the StorVault should be a good fit for many environments right now given tough economic times. However, with that being said, it could also pull [average sale prices] down on the rest of the family, a real catch-22 [for NetApp]."

Other posters to NetApp's forums put it in stronger terms. "I can't believe in today's economy that NetApp would risk business," wrote a poster identifying themselves as a NetApp reseller. "This is completely unacceptable and something must be done."

However, NetApp is not the only large storage vendor to struggle in recent years with bringing enterprise storage products down to the entry level. IBM Corp. has also been through a few iterations of low-end products over the last four years or so, including a short-lived partnership with Adaptec, which more recently sold its Snap Server NAS business to Overland Storage.

EMC Corp. started off in this market with the Insignia line in 2006, which was soon scrapped in favor of a new consumer and SMB products division, since shored up with the acquistion of Iomega, along with its consumer sales channels. Some products in EMC's SMB lines, such as Retrospect backup software, are still being sorted out following those adjustments.

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