Ray Boggs, an analyst with market research firm IDC, said Cisco's entry into the storage device market is part of a larger industry trend of networking or data center companies attempting to be all things to their customers.
Cisco's NSS 300 Series of networked storage devices
"Netgear has gone down that road already, as has HP, where you have a network communications company getting involved in storage," he said. "It speaks to the blurring of a lot of this technology where storage is associated with security, which is associated with the Internet, which then gets you into networking."
Boggs said Cisco may see larger storage systems as "an interesting prospect," but he doubted the company would make a move into the SMB or enterprise business space, as that market would bring it into direct competition with business partners and industry stalwarts such as EMC, NetApp, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.
Cisco's new Small Business NSS 300 Series Smart Storage series consist of two-bay, four-bay and six-bay desktop network storage boxes with up to 12TB of capacity based on 2TB SATA drives.
The arrays, which can be configured as network-attached storage (NAS) or as iSCSI target devices, have retail prices ranging from $913 to $5,625 depending on the capacity and functionality. Cisco also announced an accompanying service plan, the Cisco Small Business Pro Service, which sells for $149 for most NSS 300 Series configurations. The service comes with three years of technical support that includes software updates, 24-hour online chat support, next business-day hardware replacement as necessary, and call support during local business hours.
"The addition of these new devices further emphasizes Cisco's commitment to providing small businesses with affordable, easy-to-use technology they require to optimize productivity and drive growth," Ian Pennell, co-chairman of Cisco's Small Business Council, said in a statement.
The NSS 300 Series Smart Storage supports file sharing and backup for Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms and can be set up in a variety of RAID configurations including RAID 0, 1, 5, and 6 (dual-disk drive failure resiliency). Drives in the storage arrays are also hot-swappable, meaning they can be changed out without disruption.
The hard drives for the NSS 300 Series also come with native encryption capability, and data on the drives can be accessed by a secure remote Web interface. The NSS 300 devices can also be set up by policy to shutdown based on scheduled working hours to save on power. Individual hard disk drives can also be set to spin down during periods of inactivity, Cisco said.
The NSS 300 Series devices include several business applications including a user-configurable Web server with an integrated WordPress publishing platform and built-in servers to simplify user authentication and management of the network.
Cisco claims that its new Smart Storage devices can be set up in minutes and are easy to configure and manage with a straightforward browser-based interface.
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.