Here at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, top storage vendors are rolling out new models of desktop storage appliances aimed at every level and configuration. The SMB space is a lucrative market for affordable multi-bay NAS appliances, and LenovoEMC has seen a great deal of success this past year with its px4-300d four-bay desktop NAS. You don't mess with a formula that works, and LenovoEMC's new px4-400d enhances everything that made the 300d great, while roundly improving performance and adding some neat futures SMB customers will love.
Read-and-write performance was never a complaint on the 300d, but LenovoEMC is keeping the 400d in lockstep with the latest hardware. First, the company has swapped out the old chip for Intel's latest Atom processor running at 2.13GHz while upping the internal memory to 2GB. Furthermore, the new internals offer a 6Gbps SATA3 controller. All together LenovoEMC claims a 25 percent improvement in read/write performance, which is a marked improvement over the previous generation.
New this year is a direct HDMI output on the back, which is certainly an odd addition for a headless NAS. We chatted with LenovoEMC's Bill Hansen for more information on what LenovoEMC has in mind for that video output.
"[The HDMI port] gives it the ability to have video out and a video display from our local surveillance solution," says Hansen. "You can connect a monitor and have a live feed from a surveillance camera directly on the display."
The use cases for that varies by industry, but Hansen specifically pointed out that retail stores have expressed interest in using it to display a live security feed as a deterrent, without adding any significant overhead or expense. Unfortunately, it currently only supports the MindTree VMS that's built in (Milestone should in the near future), so using it as a display for alternative systems isn't in the cards just yet.
LenovoEMC also built out a setup experience that doesn't require a PC. Simply by plugging in a display, USB keyboard, and USB mouse, the unit can be managed directly without additional hardware.
Other than some new functionality enabled by the HDMI port, the conpany has also added a wealth of expansion options for the 400d. There are now a total of four USB 2.0 ports, adding two from the previous generation, as well as an eSATA port. The USB3.0 port from the 300d carries over unchanged.
Hardware isn't the only thing getting some TLC, as LenovoEMC has spent a great deal of effort improving the software stack for a variety of new functionalities. The px4-400d will be the first model sold with LifeLine 4.1, which adds a host of new functions like a domain mode, improvements to active directory support, and a more robust SDK. Business users may not be so interested in native support for BitTorrent, but the new McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator offers convenient centralized security management. According to Hansen, it also includes a wealth of code optimizations to improve performance and efficiencies.
LenovoEMC is also flexing the brand muscle a bit and bringing a little convenience to those keeping it in the family. All Windows 8.1 Lenovo Think systems will be preloaded with the LenovoEMC Storage Connector, offering a seamless discovery experience with new Lenovo products.
Still, there is no shortage of storage solutions for home office and small business customers, and it's easy to get lost in the sea of offerings from competitors.
"With this play, we think we hit a very good price point and even beat [competitors] on price," says Hansen. "More importantly, there are many features and software differentiation that we have, like our EMC technology and EMC Avamar, and apps like the McAfee Virus Scan. No one has that capability like we do, and we really differentiate based upon those features. I'm sure they [competitors] have a few that we don't too, but we feel we have the key pieces that make us stand apart.
The 300d has always been amazingly flexible given its cost, and the 400d is no different. It includes applications from Acronis, McAfee, Mindtree, and Milestone, and is also certified for integration with Windows Server, VMWare vSphere ESX, Amazon S3, XenServer 6.1/2 with MPIO, and most other acronyms you can think of.
Not an area of heavy focus here at CES, but worth mentioning, is that there is also a 1U rack-mount version called the px4-400r for SMB and remote/branch office use. Most of the features are still the same, but with a sub-$1,000 SRP, LenovoEMC has a real value here for any distributed organization looking for cost effective, and simple to use, backup and file sharing.
Looking out for the smallest of the small channel resellers, we did ask if an ARM-based version would be rolling out to replace the Lenovo ix4-300d, but we're told that there is nothing to announce at this time.
The px4-400d is available today worldwide and through distribution. Pricing starts at an amazingly low $729 without drives, and of course cost goes up from there for fully populated models at various sizes and different class drives. Full specifications are available here.
Big thanks to Bill Hansen and Chris Romoser for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with ChannelPro-SMB about the new px4-400d in detail.