NetApp is set on becoming the leading storage vendor by expanding its low-end sales as well as pushing its high-end product boat out. It is reported that NetApp is going to launch a StoreVault product line for small and medium business (SME) sold exclusively through distribution. It has appointed Sajai Krishnan as general manager of its new StoreVault division. The sole US distributor will be Tech Data of Florida.

IBM will not be reselling the product, it wasn’t included in the NetApp-IBM OEM agreement because it didn’t exist then. (IBM is expected to take the FAS 6000.) According to NetApp’s VP Channels, Leonard Iventosch, the company is looking to triple channel partner numbers from the current 250-300. The new channel partners will be for SMEs and form a separate group from NetApp’s existing enterprise resellers. The company is also improving its channel program to encourage its direct sales force to stay out of SME channel business.

What NetApp is doing is taking its mid-to-upper tier modular architecture and using it to build lower-scale products for SME customers, ones with more than, for example, 30 employees. The market is said to be focused around data-intensive professional services businesses.

The first product will be priced from $5,000 and offer both network-attached storage (NAS) file serving and iSCSI block serving. The operating system will be, of course, Data ONTAP. The array will scale up to several terabytes of capacity. Fibre Channel (FC) SAN attachment is expected in the autumn. The FC model will be more scalable and upgradable.

StoreVault will be competitively positioned against EMC Insignia and AX150 products. Internally, it will be positioned below the existing FAS 250 which costs from around $20,000 and is suited for businesses with around 100 employees or more.

The StoreVault product will have both high-performance and high-capacity drives, suggesting serial-attached SCSI (SAS) and serial ATA (SATA) technology, with copying provided between the two tiers. (Dell has just announced its SAS-based MDS1000 PowerVault line.)

NetApp says that to have NAS and iSCSI or Fibre Channel with an AX150 array you would typically need two or three AX150s with a Windows Storage Server file server sitting in front of them. The StoreVault product provides all three functions in one box.

The GUI is a Windows-style one and administration is said to be quite easy and simple.