EMC Debuts New Entry-Level Storage, Plans To Recruit Thousands Of VARs

EMC Tuesday made one of its most comprehensive product launches in years led by release of a new family of SMB storage appliances, backed by a new channel program aimed at expanding the vendor's solution provider base by thousands of partners.

With its new VNX SMB and VNXe small business appliances, EMC is targeting a market it admits it has only dabbled in before, and plans to use multiple distributors to recruit several thousand new solution providers who could be selling the new products in as few as three hours.

Also new for EMC are significant upgrades to its Data Domain line of dedupe appliances including its first appliance designed for archiving, a new version of its Unisphere storage management software, performance enhancements for its VMAX enterprise storage arrays, and new opportunities for solution providers to build a VMAX practice.

The new product releases and channel expansion comes at a crucial time for EMC. The company has enjoyed strong growth in its storage business, with total storage product revenue for its third fiscal quarter up by over 19 percent compared to the same period one year ago.

However, only a small part of that business has traditionally come from the SMB storage market, where EMC has very little presence outside of its Iomega product line.

That has to change, said EMC Chairman, CEO, and President Joe Tucci.

EMC has dabbled in the SMB storage market, usually with a single product to cover all the potential customers, Tucci said in an exclusive interview with CRN.

"Certainly when you look at the markets and storage without a doubt the SMB is a very significant market," he said. "And without a doubt it has got the fastest growth rate. So to me those are the exciting two pieces. It is a huge market, whether it is another 25 or 30 percent potentially. Something in that order probably, potentially, where we haven't been. . . . When we enter a market we try to become No. 1. That would be significant for EMC."

EMC is trying for No. 1 with its new VNX family of storage appliances. The VNX family is the first complete SMB and midrange line from EMC to feature unified storage, in which block (SAN), file (NAS), and direct-attach storage can be done with a single array.

At the entry-level is the VNXe line, which scales to up to 120 20TB nearline SAS hard drives, said Eric Herzog, vice president of product management and product marketing for the vendor.

The VNXe appliances can be configured with SSDs for extra performance, and come with an iSCSI host. List price starts at under $10,000, which includes six hard drives, EMC's Unisphere management software, file-based dedupe, snap shot capabilities, and support for CIFS, NFS, and iSCSI storage, Herzog said.

Next: VNX, VNXe To The Channel

EMC is also using higher-end versions of the VNX, which scale to over 1,000 hard drives, to replace its Clariion SAN and Celerra NAS appliances with a single unified storage appliance, Herzog said.

These units feature new Intel processors to give them three times the performance of EMC's current Clariion and Celerra appliances, and leverage SSDs and EMC's FAST (Fully Automated Storage Tiering) technology to automatically migrate data from the SSDs to hard drives when the data is accessed less frequently, Herzog said.

The entire VNX family will be primarily sold through indirect channels, with EMC direct sales reps having only a very limited opportunity to sell them, Herzog said.

However, Dell, which has traditionally been EMC's largest reseller partner much to the angst of EMC's other solution providers, will not have access to the VNX line.

To take its entry-level VNXe line to market, EMC plans to recruit several thousand new solution providers who will sign on initially to sell just VNXe but who EMC hopes will eventually grow their EMC commitment and join its Velocity partner program, said Gregg Ambulos, vice president of worldwide global channel operations for the vendor.

"We're looking to recruit thousands of VARs," Ambulos said. "There will be some VARs who sell three or four units a year. That will be very important for us."

EMC wants to make it easy for new solution providers to work with VNXe. The company is offering a simple online portal partners can use to sign up, specify which distributor they want to use and take a short online training course, Ambulos said.

"Conceivable, we can get someone in, up, and selling within three hours," he said. "It's awesome."

Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions for Marlborough, Mass.-based International Computerware Inc. (ICI), EMC’s Global Services Partner of the Year, expects VNXe and the new VNX product family to drive explosive sales growth for ICI. Shepard said VNXe alone will drive $5 million in sales for his company in 2011.

’They have brought storage provisioning and management into the 21st century and beyond,’ said Shepard of the product launch. ’Before VNXe they had superior products but they were difficult to provision and manage.’

However, Shepard said, he fears that EMC will be recruiting many low-end storage partners to fill the void left with the lessening of its reseller relationship with Dell.

"EMC needs to be concerned about protecting the branding already in place," he said. "Letting a bunch of partners loose who sell VNXe without certifications, who can call themselves EMC partners, will create a problem."

Next: Ambulos Says Wider Channel Base Not An Issue

The new solution provider recruitment will not create any problems, Ambulos said.

For even the smallest deals, EMC will have a deal registration program in place to protect the solution provider who finds an opportunity from someone else stealing the deal with a lower price, he said.

EMC will also look at each new solution provider to see if it is interested in further training or are at least actively selling the appliances, Ambulos said. Those who do not remain active will be asked to leave the program.

While the VNXe is designed for simple installation and configuration, new solution providers who do not receive technical training from EMC will not be authorized to do the installation, Ambulos said. In that case, those partners will either have to work with EMC's services team or team up with other EMC solution providers, he said.

Ideally, those new solution providers will eventually want to take further sales and technical training to be part of the EMC Velocity Partner Program, Ambulos said.

"If they're actively selling the VNXe, we're going to keep encouraging them to get the training," he said. "Our goal isn't to do the services. Our goal is to be sure we're there to help the partners."

Also new are two major additions to EMC's Data Domain line of deduplication appliances, said Shane Jackson, vice president of market for EMC's Backup Recovery Systems Division.

The first is the new EMC Global Deduplication Array, or GDA, which incorporates two of EMC's new Data Domain DD890 controllers. The two DD890 controllers each have their own storage capacity, but that capacity is linked as a single pool of storage, Jackson said.

The GDA can be used to store up to 28.5 petabytes of logical capacity, which is the capacity of data after it is deduped, and features performance of 26.3 TBs per hour, or seven times that of IBM's ProtectTIER dedupe system, Jackson said. The GDA supports EMC's Data Domain Virtual Tape Library option, as well as several top backup applications including Tivoli TSM, he said.

The DD890 controller when used by itself offers throughput of up to 14.7 TBs per hour, and has a logical capacity of 14.2 petabytes. EMC also introduced another new controller, the DD860, which features throughput of up to 9.8 TBs per hour and a logical capacity of up to 7.1 petabytes, Jackson said.

The new GDA and controllers now also offer native support for IBM i computing environments, making it possible to use them in combined iSeries server and open systems server environments, he said.

EMC also introduced the Data Domain Archiver, which Jackson called the industry's first storage system for both backup and long-term archiving.

The Data Domain Archiver sprang from customer requirements for a way to combine the backup and archiving functions and cut the need for tape for long-term archiving, Jackson said.

Next: New Symmetrix Technology, More Channel Opportunities

"If a company's regulations requires data be kept for, say, seven years, they aren't going to do it on a traditional Data Domain appliance," he said. "So they go back to tape. But with the Archiver, customers get a system that works like their Data Domain appliances with the option to retain data for a long time on disk."

The Data Domain Archiver works by moving data which customers specify for archiving to a separate storage box. As the archive box gets filled, it becomes "sealed" for fault isolation with all the needed meta data so that the data can be read in the future.

EMC also enhanced its Symmetrix VMAX array with new capabilities, including a new version of its FAST VP (Fully Automated Storage Tiering with Virtual Pools), which the company said increases application performance by 40 percent while cutting the costs by 40 percent by requiring fewer disks and less power.

Also new is the ability to scale to up to 5 million virtual machines on a single VMAX, the ability to technology refreshes with zero application downtime, and new Intel Xeon processor technology to double the performance compared to previous models.

EMC also wants to make it easier for solution providers to do business with its Symmetrix VMAX arrays, said Jeremy Burton, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at EMC.

The vendor will pay its partners coop funds around for Symmetrix sales for first time, Burton said. "Some of partners do sell Sym," he said. "We are going to recognize that and pay them on it."

Steven Burke contributed to this article.