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Dell Targets SMBs With Its First iSCSI Storage Array

The product is set to fill a hole in the storage product portfolio of Dell partner EMC.


Dell on Monday unveiled the PowerVault MD3000i, a follow-on to its MD3000 storage array with the addition of an iSCSI front-end.

Both the MD3000i and the MD3000 include SAS hard drives, a single or a dual controller, and mirrored cache for clustering, said Steve Arrington, product marketing manager for Dell.

The MD3000i includes two Gigabit Ethernet ports per controller with a minimum of 1 Gbyte of mirrored cache per controller, and up to 45 hard drives using external storage shelves for a total capacity of up to 18 Tbytes, Arrington said.

Dell also has several enhancements to its iSCSI offering on deck, Arrington said. Next quarter, the MD3000i will have the ability to connect to SATA hard drives, and will support both Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.0 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10. By December, it will include support for VMware ESX Server 3.1, and next January will support Microsoft Windows Server 2008, he said.

Eryck Bredy, president of Bredy Network Management, an Andover, Mass.-based small business solution provider and Dell partner, said he has been waiting for Dell to make just such a move in the storage space.

"I've been using software from DataCore to turn Dell servers into iSCSI storage arrays," Bredy said. "It's about time Dell does something on its own."

It wasn't a big move for Dell in terms of R&D, as it is doing like Hewlett-Packard and other vendors and adding Microsoft's Windows Storage Server with iSCSI target software to lower-end arrays to make entry-level storage arrays, Bredy said.

Yet it will make it easier for solution providers to sell Dell storage, Bredy said. "This is very good news," he said. "I'm a big believer that the easier it is for a customer to buy into SAN, the easier it is for me. Dell has come out with a basic SAN array. This is for the customer who has not yet bought into the idea of a SAN, or who considers products from companies like EMC too expensive."

The biggest impact of the new Dell iSCSI storage appliance will be on companies that have their own proprietary iSCSI storage hardware, such as Equallogic and LeftHand Networks, Bredy said. "Equallogic especially should be shaking in its boots," he said.

Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of the company that bears his name, said in a Webcast "town hall" meeting on Monday that budget constraints and lack of skilled IT personnel are holding back small businesses from expanding their storage infrastructures to meet their growing requirements.

As a result, Dell said, small and midsize businesses are typically faced with three choices: use consumer technology such as DVDs and CD-ROMs, use stripped-down enterprise storage products, or use high-priced enterprise storage products.

A large part of the problem comes from tier-one storage vendors, Dell said. "You can blame the storage vendors, and say they haven't invested to meet the needs of small businesses," he said.

Dell, on the other hand, in the second quarter was the fastest-growing tier-one storage vendor, Michael Dell said. "I believe that's happening because we are the cost leader," he said. "We've already reduced the cost of storage by 91 percent."

The MD3000i costs about 40 percent less than competitive products, and unlike many of those competitive arrays, it is a complete solution with no extra software or licenses to buy, Dell said. And optional software features cost about 60 percent less than competing products, he said.

Dell has had a long relationship with storage leader EMC under which Dell resells many EMC hardware products with both the Dell and EMC monikers. However, the company decided to go with its own products for iSCSI because the MD3000i fills a gap in the EMC product line, Arrington said.

"Our EMC portfolio has a hole," he said. "In the SMB space, EMC's products are somewhat limited. We've filled it with the PowerVault MD3000i."

Arrington said Dell has no specific plans for the MD3000i in the channel. "As we define our channel strategy, we'd like to do more with the channel," he said. "But we have no specific program for now. But there's no reason why resellers can't provide the services."

The single-controller MD3000i with two hard drives and a two-year warranty has a list price starting at $7,300. The dual-controller version lists starting at $9,400.

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