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Dell Brings SAN to the People

The MD3000i iSCSI SAN offers a low cost entry for SMEs seeking to migrate away from direct-attached storage.

The Upshot

Claim
Dell's MD3000i aims to attract SMEs with a viable alternative to expensive and complex Fibre Channel SANs. Positioned as a turnkey solution for first-time SAN customers, the MD3000i competes well on price, ease of use and scalability while sporting added features typically found only in more expensive products.
Context
The MD3000i competes with HP's MSA 1510i, Lefthand Networks' NSM160, EqualLogic's PS70E/PS100E and Network Appliances' FAS270. While EMC does position the Clarion AX150i as a small- to mid-market iSCSI offering, a joint EMC/Dell partnership actually places the AX150i within Dell's own product portfolio.
Credibility
The MD3000i delivers on its promise of a low cost, fully functional IP SAN for SMEs. While it doesn't outdo the competition in terms of features, it's got everything you need to roll out a SAN at a great price. Though it currently lacks support for SATA, RAID 6, VMware and Windows 2008 Server, Dell expects those pieces to be in place in the near future.

Dell MD3000i

Ben Franklin said death and taxes are the only two certainties in life. We'd respectfully add a third: Your business will need more storage 12 months from now than it does today. For small and medium enterprises, it's all too clear that simply buying more servers or shifting data around to less than desirable locations to relieve the space crunch is a stopgap, not a strategy. If you're stressed about the scalability of your server-based storage options, maybe it's time to consider a SAN.

Five years ago, the thought of an SME deploying a SAN was laughable because of the expense of a Fibre Channel infrastructure. That's not the case today thanks to the iSCSI protocol, which lets block-level data travel over TCP/IP networks. Dell's newest product, the PowerVault MD3000i, aims directly at cost-conscious businesses that are ready to graduate from direct-attached storage to a centralized strategy using iSCSI.

Dell isn't the only company chasing this lucrative market, of course. Other iSCSI SAN options include Hewlett-Packard's MSA1510i, LeftHand Networks' NSM160, EqualLogic's PS70E/PS100E and the Network Appliance FAS270. Dell's MD3000i compares favorably on price and features, (see chart, at right), but it does have drawbacks: the device has a limited capacity for snapshots and doesn't yet support SATA drives.

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