Dell Compellent Vs. EMC VNX: History Shows Dell Can Manage Multiple Storage Platforms

A week-plus after unveiling plans to acquire storage king EMC, Dell executives continue to cite the fact that the deal has up to a year before it might close before discussing how the two companies' storage lines might be combined.

However, one Dell storage executive said the company's acquisition history provides a possible blueprint for how the storage line question might play out.

Travis Vigil, executive director for Dell storage, declined to discuss how Dell would integrate the EMC storage line with its own. However, he told CRN, such an integration is nothing new to Dell.

[Related: What Will A Merged Dell-EMC Look Like?]

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For proof, Vigil cited Dell's 2011 acquisition of Compellent, which gave the company a new line of virtualized storage solutions that competed in part with the iSCSI-focused solutions received with Dell's 2008 acquisition of EqualLogic, as well as with Dell's original PowerVault storage line.

"If you look at the market overall, the acquisitions were more a case of expansion than overlap," he said. "In Dell's history, if there has been overlap, Dell has supported multiple lines."

Indeed, Vigil said, Dell is moving forward on a multiyear path aimed at bringing its PS family of arrays, formerly known as the EqualLogic line, and its SC family, formerly known as the Compellent line, together.

"Two years ago, we told customers we would bring together the best of two worlds in a series of steps," he said. "The first step was to standardize Dell's storage on the SC architecture, followed by moving the PS capabilities into the SC family. The third was to build an on-ramp to help customers move PS-based workloads to the SC family."

That third step is under way, starting with this week's introduction of thin import as part of a larger Dell enterprise data center server and storage push. Thin import was designed as an easy way to move workloads from PS to SC arrays. Vigil said Dell in the first half of next year is slated to introduce bi-directional replication between PS and SC arrays, as well as the ability to manage both types of arrays in a single management interface.

Dell partners said Vigil's description of how Dell has managed its different PS and SC storage platforms is a good guide of what they expect would happen with the Dell Compellent and EMC VNX platforms.

Dell will have both a large EMC VNX installed base and a large Compellent installed base it will need to grow, said Scott Winslow, president of Winslow Technology Group, a Boston-based solution provider and Dell channel partner.

"Dell has done a good job with Compellent and EqualLogic," Winslow told CRN. "We've lately seen Dell start to consolidate these offerings, taking the best of EqualLogic's iSCSI technology and Compellent's tiering technology. And they have announced upgrade paths."

Dell's success comes from its focus on ensuring customers continue to invest in its storage, Winslow said. "Dell doesn't walk away from customers," he said.

Sonia St. Charles, CEO of Davenport Group, a St. Paul, Minn.-based solution provider and Dell channel partner, said that she expects all the Dell and EMC storage lines to be available to customers after the dust settles.

"I think Dell will provide end-to-end solutions, and will build common IP [intellectual property] across all the product architectures," St. Charles told CRN.

Dell successfully sold both the EqualLogic and Compellent storage lines for years, and can do so with EMC VNX, St. Charles said.

"Now we're seeing EqualLogic and Compellent becoming combined," she said. "That's what you do. You don't throw out any of your customer base."