Network Appliance to Ship Sub-$10K Caching Hardware

  • Written By: R. Krause
  • Published: June 6 2000

Network Appliance to Ship Sub-$10K Caching Hardware
R. Krause - June 6, 2000

Event Summary

May 01, 2000 [Network Appliance et al.]

Network Appliance announced it will start shipping its first Internet caching device priced below $10,000. The company expects to start shipping them later this month.

Network Appliance's new system, the rack-mountable NetCache C1100, is due to ship in the U.S., Europe and Asia by the end of May, priced from $5,950.

The lower price and smaller size should encourage businesses to deploy caching appliances more broadly within their organizations, company spokesman Adam Trunkey said. For example, a large investment bank could deploy C1100s at overseas branch offices to distribute analyst reports more efficiently.

The box is also suitable for ISP point-of-presence (POP) deployment and supports Internet protocols including HTTP, FTP, and NNTP, as well as the three leading streaming media formats, the company said. The NetCache C1100 also supports caching and content delivery protocols such as Web Cache Control Protocol (WCCP), Network Element Control Protocol (NECP), and the Internet Content Adaptation Protocol (ICAP).

The system ships with one 9G-byte hard drive, 256M bytes of SDRAM, dual 10/100Mb Ethernet ports, and supports multiple T1 connections for HTTP caching and multiple T3 connections for streaming media.

Market Impact

Until this point, in addition to its leadership in the NAS and caching markets, NetApp has been known for its higher prices. This announcement is an attempt to garner market share in the lower price ranges as well. This is a mixed blessing for potential customers.

The C1100 is a high performance caching device (as tested by "IRCache", a group of University of California/San Diego employees, whose "Bake-Offs" are considered the primary tests in the caching industry). The IRCache "Second Bake-Off" showed that the NetApp appliance performed the best in terms of Hit Response Time, and near the top for Time to First Miss (TTFM) and Time to First Hit (TTFH). TTFM and TTFH are indicators of how fast a caching appliance can recover from a shutdown, power hit, or similar major system problem. [Note: the unit tested by IRCache was not labeled as the C1100, because Network Appliance had not yet named the tested product. However, it is clear that it was the C1100.]

However, this performance comes at a price. Out of the twenty products being tested by IRCache, the NetApp unit finished no higher than fifteenth in price/performance. The metric used by IRCache is "$1,000 Can Buy", and covers requests/sec and hits/sec, and NetApp's results among the worst in sub-$7000 price range. We question the value of providing superior performance in a low-price unit, if the price/performance metrics come out poorly. We believe that the lower-price market is concerned more about value and less about high performance (although neither should be sacrificed for the other).

User Recommendations

Smaller users who need top caching performance but don't necessarily care about "bang for the buck" should consider the C1100. Network Appliance is a strong vendor, and customers should be reasonably satisfied with the product, once they understand the caveats. Potential customers might also ask Network Appliance for current, validated test scores, in the event that the IRCache figures have been surpassed significantly.

Users who can live with slightly lower performance, but want significantly more for their money, should consider the alternative offerings. Dell's 130-B (which was tested at the same time as NetApp's unit) turned in significantly higher price/performance than the (presumed) C1100, with lower (but not significantly lower) performance - but the 130 is no longer sold by Dell. It has been replaced by the PowerApp.cache series, and no performance figures are available yet. Customers should ask, as with Network Appliance, for validated test/performance figures before committing to a purchase.

In a similar vein, IBM's Netfinity 3500 M10 showed better price/performance with only slightly lower absolute performance - but it too has been replaced. We suggest reviewing the Netfinity 4000R - different form factor from the 3500 M10, but geared toward Web caching and infrastructure. As with the others, seek out validated performance figures.

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