Dell Launches SMB-Tailored Storage Array

The MD3000i uses iSCSI networking standards to make it easy to attach to Dell's PowerEdge servers.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

September 10, 2007

3 Min Read

Dell on Monday introduced a new storage area network array built for small and medium-sized businesses, which the computer maker claims have few affordable options for storing a growing amount of data.

Dell executives, led by Chief Executive Michael Dell, unveiled the MD3000i PowerVault at a meeting with reporters and customers in San Francisco. In introducing the new system, Dell said the company was addressing an underserved market of SMBs. "If you're running a small or medium-sized business, you really have a poor choice for storage," Dell said.

Despite generating an increasing amount of data, less than 20% of small businesses and less than a third of medium-sized businesses use advanced storage technologies, such as SANs, Dell said. The key reasons for the slow adoption is expensive hardware, complicated technology, and a lack of IT staff experienced in SANs.

In attacking the complexity problem and to reduce cost, Dell has based the MD3000i on iSCSI, a network protocol standard used to build SANs over TCP/IP networks. Such Internet-based standards are more familiar to SMBs, and far less complex than Fibre Channel-based SANs favored by larger companies. "You don't need to be a Fibre-Channel wizard," Darren Thomas, VP and general manager of Dell storage, said of the latest product.

To simplify deployment of the new product, the company has integrated wizard-based configuration and management software geared toward businesses with no IT staff. "Our goal is to simplify IT for our customers," Dell said, repeating the company's new marketing pitch.

That simplicity, however, depends on customers using the MD3000i in conjunction with Dell PowerEdge servers. Both products share the same hard drives, and other components. "It's not our desire or intention to set up with non-Dell servers," Thomas said during a question and answer session with customers. However, the MD3000i does support standards for manual integration with non-Dell servers.

The new product supported up to 16 redundant servers and up to 18 terabytes of data across 45 drives. It also supported Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems, and was available in single-controller and dual-controller models. The hardware also included redundant power and fans, which were hot swappable along with disk drives, and snapshot and virtual disk copy capabilities for hourly backups.

Pricing for the MD3000i starts at less than $10,000 for a system, which is configured to support up to 16 hosts. A fully configured system with seven drives starts at $13,000.

In talking with reporters after unveiling the new hardware, Dell executives emphasized the company's focus on services going forward. In August, Dell agreed to acquire ASAP Software for $340 million, with plans to offer that company's IT services and asset management software. A month earlier, Dell agreed to buy SilverBack Technologies, an infrastructure monitoring and automation vendor.

Both acquisitions reflect Dell's intent to go beyond the technical support and maintenance that make up most of its $5 billion a year services business. Dell also plans to get more involved in helping companies run their data centers.

For SMBs, however, the company's focus is in making it easier for them to deploy and maintain their own storage and servers, since many can't afford ongoing maintenance costs. "You'd be surprised how capable customers are in deploying systems themselves," Dell said. "We're just making it so much simpler."

Dell became CEO in January after chief executive Kevin Rollins quit following an 18-month stretch of slowing sales and profits. The decline led to Dell steadily losing global market share to rival Hewlett-Packard, which became the leading computer maker worldwide. Dell remains No. 1 in the United States.

As part of its plan to drive consumer PC sales, Dell has gone beyond its made-to-order model for selling PCs over the Web and telephone. Dell is selling computers through Wal-Mart Stores in the U.S., Carphone Warehouse in Europe, and Bic Camera in Japan. "You'll be seeing more," Dell said.

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