Dell's Two-Part Plan: Merge Storage Platforms, Develop 'Blue Thunder' Software-Defined Storage


Alan Atkinson
Alan Atkinson, VP and GM for Dell storage

Dell is in the midst of a huge overhaul of its storage business as it works toward unifying its two primary storage technologies and embarks on a software-defined storage strategy based heavily on partnering with some pretty significant technology providers.

For Dell, which before becoming a private company was best known as a provider of commodity PC and server hardware, the massive shift in its storage strategy is visible proof of its rebirth as a provider of enterprise IT solutions, said Alan Atkinson, vice president and general manager for Dell storage.

That shift stems, in part, from the fact that Dell already has one of the industry's top server lines on which to base much of its storage going forward, Atkinson told CRN.

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"We tell customers, 'You can come to a premier partner like Dell, which has an industry-leading server platform like PowerEdge, and get an end-to-end solution that mixes and matches with compatible solutions," he said.

Dell has been very open in its software strategy, a fact not lost on customers or the channel, said Scott Winslow, president of Winslow Technology Group, a Boston-based solution provider and long-term Dell storage channel partner.

"I give Dell an 'A' for transparency," Winslow told CRN. "I feel Dell is treating customers the way they want to be treated. Dell's open about combining EqualLogic and Compellent, primarily on the Compellent platform. It is important that Dell invests the needed resources and capital to combine them."

Dell is taking a two-pronged approach to developing its storage strategy going forward, Atkinson said.

The first is to bring its various storage technologies, which were acquired starting in 2008, into a common storage identity.

This includes iSCSI pioneer EqualLogic, enterprise storage developer Compellent, memory virtualization technology developer RNA Networks, storage compression technology developer Ocarina and clustered NAS developer Exanet.

Over time, all these will be brought together in a single storage identity," Atkinson said. "But no one will be left behind. It will be backwards-compatible with prior versions of the individual technologies."

The EqualLogic brand and its "PS" model name will be kept in play for now, he said. Dell plans for at least two more major EqualLogic releases, including one hardware refresh.

Dell already dropped the Compellent brand, referring instead to that line as the "Dell Storage SC series," starting with the introduction in June of the entry-level SC4020, which Dell partners referred to as "Baby Compellent" despite the name change.

NEXT: 'Blue Thunder' And Dell's Software-Defined Storage Strategy