The three industry heavyweights entered the market in the past few months, and are set to be joined by IBM soon.
Network Appliance has an installed base of 17,000 filers worldwide and its approach is different from that of its three new competitors. It has built NAS products that are designed from the outset for the job: as northern Europe managing director Tim Pitcher puts it, "We describe our products as tin-wrapped software."
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Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Sun have all in contrast modified general purpose storage servers for NAS applications, running under Windows NT, Solaris and HP-UX respectively.
Cable TV firm Telewest Communications is one of Network Appliance's reference customers. "We use filers for the ease of deployment for a service that is growing at such a rapid rate," says head of technological development Gary Jennings.
Network Appliance is also looking to build up its presence in the storage caching market by moving from pure storage on to content management and delivery. Caching accounts for less than 10% of the company's turnover. New products out next week will increase capacity and performance and will add new software functionality derived from Network Appliance's recent acquisition of WebManage.