Iomega has been a staple of the desktop computing environment for decades, but the company’s products have never been quite at home in even small corporate data centers. That changes today with the introduction of the iSCSI StorCenter Pro ix4-200r. As of now, EMC’s SOHO storage subsidiary is a serious challenger in the small business and entry-level VMware ESX storage market.
It might look like the existing NAS 200rL, but the ix4-200r sports upgraded hardware and a new rev of EMC’s LifeLine storage software. This unit packs a serious punch, boasting full iSCSI target support for servers running Windows or Linux (or anything else with an iSCSI initiator) in addition to NFS, SMB, media streaming, print services, and just about every other protocol.
Although both Iomega and VMware are under the EMC corporate umbrella, it was a surprise to find that the ix4-200r is certified compatible with ESX using both iSCSI and NFS right out of the gate. This is the only inexpensive storage system to wear a VMware badge, and this alone will likely make it a fixture in small offices and VMware labs. The desktop StorCenter ix4-100 and StorCenter ix2 are already widely used in these environments even without iSCSI, after all. The ix4-200r provides a complete SAN-in-a-box, supporting multiple NAS and iSCSI shares with dynamic allocation of the internal RAID-5 protected storage.
Although aimed at the office, the ix4-200r retains the vast set of LifeLine capability we’ve seen in Iomega’s other offerings. This includes media streaming for UPnP (Twonky) and iTunes (Firefly), remote access, Active Directory support, and print services. The new unit even packs the more unusual Axis video surveillance capture capability. It sports two USB ports on the back and one on the front for expansion, data import, backup, or printers as well. Probably the best software feature is EMC’s Retrospect backup client, which was recently updated on the Mac platform.
The ix4-200r starts at just $1,799 (list) for 2 TB, and I expect resellers to dip well below that number. For comparison, Amazon currently sells the smaller non-iSCSI desktop 2 TB ix4-100 for $675 and the 1 TB ix2 for $268 and I’ve seen each for much less. I expect a street price of $1600 for the 2 TB rackmount unit – competing products from Buffalo and Netgear are priced and marked down similarly. The 4 TB model is priced $1,000 higher, perhaps unrealistically high given that the only difference is the use of 1 TB hard drive units instead of the 2 TB’s 500 GB drives. For comparison, Drobo just introduced their limited single-server 8-bay iSCSI DroboPro at $1,750 configured with four 500 GB drives. But none of these alternatives boast a spot on the ESX compatibility list, and I suspect this may be a deciding factor for many. Note that you can’t buy less than four hard drives in an ix4-200r, though the drives are easy to replace.
Iomega was kind enough to give me a preview of the ix4-200r at their offices, and I came away impressed by the new array and the company in general. They have a solid vision of the needs of the small office and are hard at work on products to meet them. Although the iSCSI support is not coming to the company’s other LifeLine-powered systems (the ix2, ix4-100, and Home Media) at this point, I would not be at all surprised to see it become a staple in future networked storage systems. A large gap remains below the EMC CLARiiON range, so I suspect that larger Iomega systems are on the way as well. As a potential buyer, I’d like to see Windows logo qualification, and Hyper-V support would be super as well. And as a Mac user, I’d love to see Time Machine support and for Iomega follow Drobo by offering a free iSCSI initiator – a guy can dream, right?
Updates and clarifications:
- Iomega has added the StorCenter Pro ix4-200r to their web site alongside the non-LifeLine StorCenterPro 200rL
- The ix4-200r will not be released until April 22, 2009
- The new rackmount ix4-200r is listed at $1799.99 for 2 TB and $2799.99 for 4 TB. I don’t expect to see either sell for less than a few hundred off those list prices
- The ix4-200r has been listed in the VMware ESX compatibility guide for a few days now for both iSCSI and NFS connectivity – I’m surprised no one noticed!
- Although it’s not mentioned in the press release, Iomega tells me that the StorCenter Pro ix4-200r does still support the BlueTooth file exchange found on its little brothers
- EMC’s StorageZilla posted his impressions as well: Iomega adds iSCSI, threatens war on us all
- Carlo Costanzo is excited to use this in VMware environments: EMC’s Low Cost SAN Starter for VMware (Iomega)
- Chris Mellor gives it a UK spin in The Register: Iomega opens sub-£2k box of storage tricks
- Duncan Epping is also excited about Home Lab Storage