Dell Unveils New EqualLogic iSCSI Arrays

iSCSI storage area network virtualization storage

Dell early November said it plans to acquire EqualLogic in a deal worth $1.4 billion. For Round Rock, Texas-based Dell, EqualLogic is an opportunity to grab one of the top vendors in the red-hot iSCSI market while laying the groundwork for a channel based on EqualLogic's channel-only sales model.

Dell executives, speaking in a press conference at EqualLogic's headquarters in Nashua, N.H. where all the company signs were already changed to "Dell," said the new PS5000 Series would be sold through EqualLogic and Dell channel partners and through Dell's direct sales force. EqualLogic had used a channel-only model to sell its products.

Rapidly growing demand for iSCSI storage systems and increased use of virtualization technologies that's accelerating sales of SAN systems were the main reasons Dell acquired EqualLogic, said Brad Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of Dell's business product group. And they are also the main selling points of the new PS5000 line. "iSCSI is clearly the fastest growing segment of the storage industry. And iSCSI just seems to be the ideal storage solution for a virtualized environment," Anderson said.

The move comes as Dell is trying to reassure EqualLogic channel partners that the acquisition won't result in channel conflict and price competition with Dell's direct sales force. Dell has scheduled a "town hall session" for solution providers for Tuesday, Feb. 5, to respond to their concerns.

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"Dell has welcomed EqualLogic's channel with open arms," said John Joseph, EqualLogic's marketing vice president who is now Dell's vice president of marketing for Equallogic products. He repeated promises made by Dell executives that EqualLogic channel partners would be grandfathered into Dell's Partner Direct channel program and the company will maintain many elements of the EqualLogic program such as deal registration.

Joseph said making Dell's complete product line available to EqualLogic solution providers would provide them with expanded sales opportunities.

EqualLogic CEO Don Bulens plans to stay with the company for three to six months and will spend most of that time visiting customers and channel partners to help keep them in the Dell fold, Anderson said.

The Dell EqualLogic PS5000 Series, with a starting price of $19,000, includes three models all based on a 16-bay enclosure. The PS5000E features eight or 16 low-cost 7,200-rpm SATA hard drives and one or two controllers. The PS5000X comes configured with up to 16 higher-performance 10,000-rpm SAS hard drives and two controllers. The PS5000XV comes with up to 16 high-performance 15,000-rpm SAS hard drives.

Executives demonstrating the product Monday emphasized the modular scalability of its design, saying PS5000 arrays can be combined to build a SAN with up to 192 Tbytes. They also highlighted the simplicity of the product's management user interface and such capabilities as automatic load balancing.

The PS5000 is positioned above Dell's entry-level iSCSI PowerVault MD3000i Series and Fibre Channel-based AX Series storage products, and below the high-end CX Series that incorporates both Fibre Channel and iSCSI technology.

Dell gets the AX and CX products through its partnership with EMC. Dell executives, facing questions about how the EqualLogic and EMC storage products will be positioned against each other, said the EMC systems are targeted toward customers who have standardized on Fibre Channel. "It's a very complementary product lineup," Anderson said.

Dave Bondo, principal and executive vice president of Preston Data Systems, a Preston, Wash.-based solution provider, said the new PS5000 series shows that Dell is already starting to apply its cost model to storage.

For instance, up until Friday EqualLogic used a 14-bay chassis for its SAS arrays and a 16-bay chassis for its SATA arrays, while all the models of the PS5000 series uses the same chassis, Bondo said.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense from a cost-point to have two different chassis," he said. "Dell's pretty savvy on how to cut costs. Also, Dell cut prices of the existing EqualLogic products about a week ago. It's a big company, and has ways to cut costs."

Preston signed up with Dell about 18 months ago for a one-time deal, but then re-signed with the vendor the day after Dell said it would acquire EqualLogic, Bondo said. "We figured we had two choices," he said. "We could show our rage and frustration and throw a fit, or go figure that Dell and convergence makes sense. So we decided to embrace it."

So far, the Dell relationship has worked for Preston. The solution provider was working on a 100-Tbyte storage deal in Las Vegas using EqualLogic product when the acquisition was announced. Bondo said he told the customer about the pending acquisition, and the customer did the normal thing: it called Dell to check on the pricing.

"Dell told them to keep working with the Dell reseller --there's no better deal," he said.