Network Appliance has set its sights on the content management market. Nicholas Enticknap reports
Storage specialist Network Appliance is diversifying to embrace the emerging world of Internet content management and delivery, and has announced two new software products as its first step.
"Our core competence is taking data off the network and getting it on again," said Northern Europe managing director Tim Pitcher.
In product terms that has meant mainly network attached storage (NAS), which today accounts for more than 90% of Network Appliance revenues, and caching devices used to speed up data transfer over the Internet.
"The next evolution of our product line is towards content delivery and management," explained Pitcher.
This move has been welcomed by Network Appliance users such as Telewest Communications, which has 2Tbytes of NAS file storage and 25 of the cache products.
Telewest's head of technical development Gary Jennings said, "We have a load of content. Pushing it to the end of the network is key for us."
The first of Network Applicance's two software products is Content Director, which provides policy-based facilities for content distribution and management. The second is Content Reporter, a performance measurement and monitoring tool that tracks how content is being used and which can be linked to a billing system. Both run on Linux, Solaris, Windows NT and Windows 2000 servers.
The two products were developed by WebManage Technologies, a company Network Appliance bought for $75m (£50m) last month - its biggest acquisition ever.
Content Director and Content Reporter are the first products of a strategy which has been branded "end-to-end". Matt Peachey, Network Appliance content delivery manager, says this is "an integrated solution that optimises the management and flow of business information".
To help speed up product development within this strategy, the company has joined two business consortiums. With Akamai Technologies, it founded the Internet Content Adaptation Protocol (Icap) Forum, which produced the first draft of the protocol in March. This initiative is aimed at facilitating content-based e-services involving Web page reformatting, Web advertising, virus scanning, content filtering, data compression and language translation.
Icap is seen by Network Appliance as a fast route to the development of content delivery services which make use of the company's cache devices. "It allows Netcache to deliver value-added services via Icap partner solutions," said the company's European content delivery manager Nick Thurlow.
Network Appliance is currently working with about 80 Icap partners to develop products.
The company is also a prime mover in the Open Storage Networking initiative. This is a consortium formed to avoid the need for storage area networks (Sans) by making better use of existing and emerging standards such as Gigabit Ethernet and Virtual Interface.
In the short term, Network Appliance sees its cache products, which speed up the delivery of data over the Internet, as its fastest growing product area.
Gartner Group has forecast that this market will reach between $6bn (£4bn) and $8bn (£5.5bn) a year by 2004, and, according to Internet Research Group, Network Appliance was the biggest seller in this market in 1999, with a 28% market share.
In a bid to maintain its market leadership, the company has also announced two cache models.
The C1105 is a slimline, single-disc, single-rack unit cache product that complements the C1100 launched five months ago. Both have the same functionality but the new model increases maximum storage from 9Gbytes to 72Gbytes.
There is also a new top-end cache, the C6100, which offers up to 2Tbytes capacity - double that of its predecessor, the C760 - and offers better performance at a speed of 1mbps. Data Ontap Version 6.0, the company's latest operating system release, which runs on both the NAS filers and the cache products, is also claimed to offer a performance boost.
This plethora of products in the caching and content delivery markets follows the launch of a new top-end NAS system, the F840c, last month, which raised the maximum capacity of Network Appliance's NAS range from 3Tbytes to 12Tbytes, and has more than three times the throughput of the F760, its predecessor, which independent testing lab SPEC benchmarked at 25,900 operations per second under its SPECsfs97.