Overland “re-launch” throws down SMB price challenge with innovative SnapServer DX

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Overland Storage today launches its completely new SnapServer DX Series for SMBs, adding some ‘enterprise-level’ features, simplified management and, especially, very aggressive pricing.

Its target is SMBs who want features they can’t normally afford, such as replication and thin provisioning. One result is that its long-established Guardian OS has been revamped so much in the new version 7.0 that it is no longer backwards-compatible.

In today’s release are two models, the 1U high SnapServer DX1 houses four drives, the 2U SnapServer DX2 eight, comprising any mix of SAS and SATA-II enterprise of desktop drives. However, total capacities can grow to 120 or 288TB respectively using its SnapExpansion capability to add more units.

Overland identifies three main challenges for SMBs that these models are addressing: i) budgets insufficient to add capacity and functionality to keep pace with data growth, ii) complexity in storage management and, iii) volume management including continuous monitoring to avoid hitting a capacity limit brick wall. Despite the familiar ‘Snap’ name, the SnapServer DX Series is a completely new development, with a very distinctive look.

Andy Walsky, Overland’s VP for EMEA and APAC Sales, who described this as the start of a “rebrand and refresh” for its systems, said the most disruptive element was the very aggressive pricing. The company was well-placed to achieve this because the hardware and operating system were its own.

So, for instance, a SnapServer DX1 with 4TB (4x1TB drives) has a (US) recommended price $1,999, while a SnapServer DX2 with 36TB (12x3TB) is $7,199. Even at these prices, the channel would get good margins, he said.

The Dynamic RAID capability (an optional alternative to standard RAID), combines RAID with single or dual parity across all units. New capacity can be added, or disk units hot-swapped, without downtime. The total storage within a single DX1 or DX2 can be treated as a common pool.

Overland’s own form of thin provisioning means storage usage is maximised, and overall capacity monitoring means system-generated warnings in advance of the need to add more capacity. This removes most of the headache of capacity prediction and constant monitoring.

Other features include Snap Enterprise Data Replicator (SnapEDR) which will replicate data between locations for collaboration and data protection, full integration with either Windows Active Directory or UNIX/Linux Domains, and a unified block and file storage capability. Overland also claims a transfer rate of over 350MB/s on the DX2. Overall, this appears to provide a lot of functionality for little outlay.

The SMB market is very competitive, but Overland has a long-established worldwide reseller channel with over 2,000 partners, with sales and service support in more than 60 countries. Conversely, this might trigger something of a price-war – as everyone from Dell, NetApp and EMC to Iomega and Buffalo has products for SMBs.

Overland itself has been involved in something of a re-launch, and now has a completely new management team and strategy. Walsky told me, “Overand has thrown out its old paradigm. It is now a storage solutions company.” It had moved away from its former focus towards tape, and was gearing its products for all of on-line, near-line and off-line storage including archive, he said.

Overland has also ceased to be an OEM provider; it supplies its own systems 100% through the channel.

Overland has struggled with a weak financial position for a few years, but its huge infrastructure helped it achieve revenues of nearly $78m in 2010. Other initiatives, such as stronger action on patent infringement, may create an extra revenue stream. Without firm predictions, the company hopes to reach profitability again very soon. What will happen in the next few months is certainly worth watching.