HP's new entry-level HP StorageWorks NAS 1000s fileserver is one of the first to be based on Microsoft's Windows Storage Server 2003. It is available in 320GB, 640GB and 1TB sizes, at prices from $2999, making it less than 1 cent per raw MB.

Björn Tromsdorf, HP Europe's network storage marketing and alliance manager, said that WSS 2003 is not a cut-down version of Windows, but is tuned for storage use, with non-essential services disabled by default.

He said it scores over NAS based on open operating systems in a number of areas. For example, there is a wide choice of Windows anti-virus software available off the shelf, and he added that Windows is now cheap enough to rival the likes of Linux on cost grounds.

Another important feature is replication, he said, as it allows businesses to install StorageWorks NAS 1000s boxes in remote offices and then synchronise them to a big NAS head at a centra location. This technique helps protect data and can also be used to distribute content such as documentation or training material from the centre to the remote offices.

Tromsdorf claimed too that, even though rival NAS systems might turn in better performance when sharing files via the industry standard NFS protocol, in Windows environments what matters is a system's performance when running Microsoft's CIFS file sharing protocol, and WSS 2003 is faster here.

The launch follows an announcement at HP's ENSA European customer showcase back in January, when HP and Microsoft committed to jointly designing and testing storage systems. HP says it now has over 100 engineers and marketing staff working exclusively on Windows-based storage, including some based at Microsoft's Redmond HQ.

However, Tromsdorf confirmed that HP is also developing a Linux version of the NAS 1000s for release later this year.