Dell unveils SAN offering

InfoWorld |  Operating Systems

DELL, THE industry's original build-to-order computer maker, this week will once again leverage its business model with the introduction of the PowerVault 660F, a Windows NT-based SAN (storage area network) built in-house by Dell and designed to beat the competition's prices.

The 660F's predecessor, the 650, was a rebranded version of EMC's Clariion SAN technology. By building the upgraded 660F itself, Dell plans to undercut the entry-level prices of competitors such as Compaq, IBM, and even EMC. The homegrown 660F will be introduced at $45,000, said Bruce Kornfeld, Dell director of product marketing for storage.

"I don't think anyone in the industry can go under $100,000 for a similar SAN," Kornfeld said. "We're going for the low to middle market: small businesses, workgroups, departmental or distributed environments. This is SAN for the masses."

Steve Duplessie, a senior analyst at the Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group, believes Dell's single-minded drive to conquer the mainstream Windows NT market with the 660F creates a legitimate threat to the competition.

"Dell sells direct, Dell sells cheap, and does well in the middle market," Duplessie said. "[With the 660F] now they have a scalable RAID product targeted exclusively at the Wintel space, and I fully expect them to disrupt the fellows at Compaq and maybe even EMC."

With the 660F, Dell will focus specifically on the Windows NT market, which Duplessie calls "one of the fastest growing markets" in storage. Although NT-based storage systems have caught up with Unix-based systems, open-source storage platforms such as Linux are popping up at more than twice the rate of the others combined.

Still, Round Rock, Texas-based Dell will wait before expanding the open-source offerings in its storage lineup and continue to focus on NT. Dell faults competitors such as Sun Microsystems, Compaq, EMC, and IBM of "trying to offer everything to everyone in the storage industry," Kornfeld said.

EMC spokesman Michael O'Malley dismissed Kornfeld's charges that EMC offers overly complex storage solutions, saying the NT market Dell is targeting is a low priority for the company.

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