Oxford University is using a new iSCSI storage area network (SAN) product from start-up company StorMagic.

The university's Faculty of Mediaeval and Modern Languages, and also its Linguistics Faculty are using StorMagic's SM Series software to provide consolidated networked and block-level storage using Ethernet to their 250 users and 100 post-grad students.

The iSCSI SAN is based on a Fibrenetix RAID product with six 500GB Hitachi SATA disks configured to provide 2TB of RAID-protected capacity. The two faculties are migrating from a Novell Netware system to the StorMagic SAN.

Jon Edwards, an IT Officer for the two faculties, said: "We knew that finding an affordable solution that could work seamlessly in a Netware environment and that would effectively transition us to a networked storage model while giving us reliability, support, and ease of use was going to be a challenge. Like most educational establishments, for us, money is not a bottomless pit. Our servers and direct-attach storage infrastructure were dated and we wanted to deploy a cost-effective, network-based data protection solution that would work with our Novell and Linux servers."

The StorMagic SM Series is an iSCSI-based product designed specifically for small and medium organisations who do not have knowledgeable storage sysadmins. It has features such as data migration, replication, and consolidation to enable users to share, manage and protect data.

Storage volumes are consolidated into a single logical pool to simplify capacity management and allocation. Users can monitor and balance physical storage resources to increase utilisation rates. There is a web-based interface for both local and remote management. Accessing servers can run Windows, as well as Novell NetWare, Linux (RedHat, SuSE), and Mac OS X.

StorMagic says that, through the Windows GUI interface, users can get through set-up and configuration in less than ten minutes, without impacting their ongoing activities. Capacity usage and throughput are monitored, and can be balanced and optimised by dynamically migrating volumes. Data protection is carried out locally using RAID and snapshot technologies for backup, data retention, or compliance purposes.

The company says the SM Series is priced well below enterprise-class iSCSI products.

This generally means ones from suppliers such as EqualLogic, Left Hand Networks and Network Appliance's StoreVault product line.

The nearest competitor is probably DataCore's SANmelody.

Analyst Tony Asaro of ESG is impressed with the software: "It isn't enough to provide a GUI or intuitive management commands but to think about the holistic experience of implementing a SAN and then managing it for the long term. That is what StorMagic did from the onset, creating an experience with the SMB user in mind."

The StorMagic software is available now through a world-wide network of channel partners at an MSRP starting at £4,000.