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Dell is vowing to integrate its various storage technologies, including several recent acquisitions, and in the process exchange its reputation as a storage reseller for that of a leading innovator.
That integration of EqualLogic iSCSI, Ocarina deduplication, Exanet scale-out NAS, and Compellent tiered storage technologies will eventually allow Dell's storage products to fit seamlessly into converged infrastructures, said Carter George, director of Dell's storage strategy.
And they will also mean enhanced opportunities for Dell's storage-focused channel partner base which this month increased by 50 percent with the acquisition of Compellent, said Phil Soran, president of Dell Compellent.
Dell has been on a storage acquisition binge recently, building a strong storage portfolio as its reseller relationship with long-term partner EMC has declined.
The binge began in late 2007, when Dell unveiled a $1.4 billion bid for EqualLogic, a pioneer in the development of iSCSI storage. That bid, coming only weeks after Dell made its first concerted effort to build a channel program, gave Dell a solution provider base which was at first concerned about working with Dell but which later formed a core part of the vendor's channel.
That was followed in early 2010 with Dell's acquisition of Exanet, a developer of clustered NAS technology. Exanet's appliances allow NAS to scale as more appliances are added, and can sit in front of other vendors' storage capacity.
Five months later, Dell acquired Ocarina Networks, a developer of content-aware deduplication technology which looks at the content of a file and how it is structured to choose the best way to compress and dedupe the data.
Finally, Dell last month closed its $876 million acquisition of Compellent, a leading developer of tiered storage virtualization technology.
However, Dell has not has a totally smooth storage acquisition record. Dell in 1999 acquired storage technology startup Convergenet, a company which never produced a working product. That was a learning lesson for Dell, which was never able to capitalize on the technology it acquired.
Dell also faltered in an attempt to acquire 3PAR, a developer of storage arrays featuring such services as clustering, tiered storage, and thin provisioning. Dell in August surprised the industry with a $1.5 billion bid for 3PAR, but eventually lost after a short but intense bidding war to HP, which in September paid $3.5 billion for 3PAR.
The acquisition of EqualLogic, Exanet, Ocarina, and Compellent, along with Dell's own PowerVault line, gives Dell a reputation of trying to sell several incompatible storage technologies at once, a situation which is actually the norm in the storage industry.
That is a potential risk when acquiring multiple companies, said George, who was vice president of products at Ocarina when that company was acquired by Dell.
"People ask about our plan to put these things together," George said. "Let's put it another way. We have a plan, and we're acquiring companies as part of that plan."
Dell's storage integration plan calls for it to start integrating the Exanet scale-out NAS file system into its EqualLogic and PowerVault lines starting the first half of 2011, to be followed with integration into the Compellent line, George said.
Dell also plans to integrate Ocarina dedupe technology at the file and object level with its PowerVault and EqualLogic lines, and hopefully its Compellent line, this year, he said. Integration of block-level dedupe, which compresses the data even further, should happen next year, he said.
NEXT: More Integration, Including On The Channel Side