Quantum Corp. has introduced a new network attached storage (NAS) server called the Guardian 4400. Measuring it in at 1U of rack space, the new server sports RAID 5 storage capabilities up to 640GB and pricing starting at US$4,295. The Guardian 4400 features a plug-and-play design created to enable system administrators to add networked file storage for multiple platforms (including the Mac) within a few minutes, without having to disrupt existing network services to do it. The Guardian 4400 ships in the first week of September.
The Guardian 4400 features four front-loading hot-swappable drive bays, along with twin gigabit Ethernet interfaces on the backplane. A PCI slot provides the expansion to add a SCSI interface card if necessary, for local tape backup. This way, Quantum explained, the system can be backed up without pushing data over the network. A serial port is also included, and can be used for diagnostic use.
Stacking up against the Xserve
With Apple making a push for the enterprise market with its Xserve device, some IT managers and network administrators who favor Macs may be wondering if they still have a need for NAS systems. Quantum certainly thinks so.
“We still see our main competition in this market as the general purpose server,” explained Quantum’s Drew Meyer, who added that their research has shown that 70 percent of the general purpose servers in use are used solely for file storage.
“They’re different beasts,” said Meyer. “You can do more with the Xserve. The concept of network attached storage is that file service is king. That’s what we’re dedicated to.”
$4,295 pays for a 480GB unit with a 1GHz Pentium III processor and 256MB RAM, with optional SCSI. For another $1,200 — $5,495 total — Quantum also sells a Guardian 4400 with 640GB of storage capacity with a 1.26GHz Pentium III processor and 512MB RAM, along with a standard SCSI card.
The cost of such a NAS system may be significantly less than a general purpose server from some players in the enterprise networking field, but it’s interesting to note that Apple may be giving companies like Quantum a run for their money: A similarly configured 480GB Xserve, also with a 1GB processor and 256MB RAM, costs US$4,549 — only a couple of hundred dollars more. Currently 480GB is the most capacity you can order for an Xserve, however.
Guardian OS 2.1 debuts
The new 4400 system is the first shipping NAS system from Quantum to feature Guardian OS 2.1 — also available as a free download from the Quantum Web site once the 4400 is released in September. Guardian OS is a Linux-based operating system used in place of the FreeBSD-based Snap OS embedded on Quantum’s lower-end Snap Servers.
“Using a Linux-derived system provides us with a huge time to market advantage,” explained Quantum’s Jim Sherhart. “It also makes it easier for us to integrate a faster processor and RAM.”
As always, the storage system supports Windows, Unix/Linux and Mac OS. Full support for Microsoft Active Directory Service (ADS) and Unix Network Information Service (NIS) are also provided.
A key feature of Guardian OS 2.1 is the new Backup Express software, an embedded utility that enables the Guardian 4400 to archive and backup content to a locally installed tape drive. What’s more, up to four more Guardian servers can back up their content over the Gigabit Ethernet interface to one Guardian 4400 connected to a local tape drive or library system.
Quantum said the design of the Guardian 4400 matched with improvements in Guardian OS translate into a significant performance advantage over their own Snap Server 4100 product — a 3x boost, in fact. What’s more, Quantum said that the Guardian 4400 works twice as a fast as a MaxAttach 4300 system from Maxtor, a storage company that recently exited the NAS business.
Jaguar support, performance?
Quantum did not have benchmarks comparing the Guardian 4400’s performance to Apple’s Xserve. During a recent interview with MacCentral, Quantum confirmed that it had not tested Guardian OS 2.1 or the Guardian 4400 with Mac OS X 10.2, “Jaguar.”
Quantum is cautiously optimistic, however. Windows-friendly networking improvements to Jaguar might even provide some tangible benefits. Quantum recommended that Jaguar users looking for maximum performance with their new Guardian 4400s rely on SMB, or Server Message Block. SMB is a protocol supported by the Guardian 4400 and is common in the Windows world.
If your networking environment is particularly Mac-friendly, however, the Guardian 4400 continues to support AFP, or Apple Filing Protocol — what Apple bills as “the richest protocol for Macintosh file services and Mac OS.”
Quantum said that 20 percent of the companies that use its NAS systems either have Macs on the network or are pure Macintosh environments. “We’ll continue to support AFP for the foreseeable future,” said Meyer.