SMB - Dell launches disk storage array for SMBs

PowerVault MD 3000i targeted at smaller companies whose storage needs are growing but want a simple solution

Dell on Monday introduced a disk storage array that it says can meet the needs of nascent but growing small-to-midsize businesses for about US$13,000.

The iSCSI-based PowerVault MD 3000i was unveiled at an event in San Francisco that was Webcast live.

"Our goal is to simplify IT for our customers, save them money and let them do what they want with those savings," said Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell, to a hotel ballroom full of Dell executives, customers and journalists.

Dell chose to support iSCSI, because it's a gigabit Ethernet standard familiar to even the most novice business IT users and is less expensive than Fibre Channel. The 3000i also uses the same hard drives as in Dell's PowerEdge servers, supports SAS or SATA hard drives and supports up to 16 redundant servers and up to 18TB of data across 45 drives.

At a news conference following the event, Darren Thomas, vice president and general manager of Dell's storage business, told reporters that a fully configured 3000i could be delivered for about US$13,000, which Dell claims is US$2,000 less than the next-lowest priced competitive offering.

The product is designed for SMBs for whom direct-attached storage, in which one storage device is attached to each server, is inadequate, but an enterprise-sized storage network is too expensive and complex, Thomas said.

Without mentioning any names, Thomas said a competitor recently introduced its latest SMB storage solution but that the cost of software licenses and upgrades exceeded the cost of the hardware.

Dell customers appeared onstage to tout the new storage product.

Northern Engraving, a manufacturer of product name tags that go on everything from refrigerator doors to athletic shoes, overspent on a high-end storage array from EMC once it outgrew its original system.

"We were on the verge of being too small for direct-attached storage. First we tried an EMC solution, but it was probably overkill for us. This sounds like it would be perfect for us," said Brad Van Kirk, IT manager of the Sparta, Wis.-based Northern Engraving, with five Midwest plants and 500 to 600 users.

Dell makes its own low-end storage products but co-brands high-end storage made by EMC as Dell-EMC.

Dell's storage business turns out to be a bit of recent good news in an otherwise difficult year for the company. According to worldwide external disk-storage hardware sales figures for the second quarter, Dell was the fastest-growing storage vendor with a 23.8 percent increase in revenue to US$405 million, compared to the second quarter of 2006. However, Dell only holds a 9.4 percent share of that market, fourth place behind EMC, HP and IBM.

Dell remains under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission after an internal investigation identified accounting irregularities in which sales figures were inflated to meet stock market earnings expectations. Dell said last month it will have to restate earnings over the last four years by as much as US$150 million.

Dell lost its No. 1 position in the PC sales market in 2006 to rival HP, and Michael Dell returned to the position of CEO earlier this year after the ouster of Kevin Rollins from that job.

Michael Dell says the company will be more long-term-focused than it had been in the past, meeting the future needs of the company and its customers as well as the more immediate needs of market watchers.

"We are intending to build this idea of simplifying IT," Dell said at the news conference. "Dell's ability to deliver to customers resonates with those customers, and I think you'll see us do a better job of balancing the short, medium and the long term altogether."

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Brad Reed

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