EMC Revamps SMB Lineup

The iSCSI-compatible AX4, also sold by Dell, replaces EMC's AX150 and CX300

January 9, 2008

4 Min Read
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EMC is revamping its low-end SAN systems with the launch of its Clariion AX4 device today. The AX4 will replace EMC's low-end AX150 and CX300, reflecting the vendor's growing emphasis on smaller users.

"Storage in the SMB marketplace is growing at a very high rate," says Barry Ader, senior director of storage product marketing at EMC. He says virtualization and iSCSI are helping drive interest in small, expandable systems.

The AX4 can be configured with either 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel or iSCSI, and EMC is emphasizing the latter. "We're seeing a lot of adoption around iSCSI -- about 50 percent of our SMB portfolio goes out with iSCSI," Ader says. "We see most of the entry-level customers going with it."

Unlike EMC's AX150, the AX4 offers a mixture of both SAS and SATA drives within the same enclosure. And with up to 45 Tbytes of capacity, EMC is substantially increasing the scaleability for SMBs. The AX150 hit the ceiling at 9 Tbytes and the CX300 at 22 Tbytes. EMC plans the AX4's maximum capacity to reach 60 Tbytes in March with the arrival of 1-Tbyte SATA drives.

EMC also unveiled a number of software enhancements for the AX4 today, which include a MetaLUN feature for expanding capacity on the fly, and VirtualLUN, which shifts data from one part of the system to another. "Now a customer can take information that may sit on a high- performing SAS drive and move it to a SATA drive without bringing the application down," says Ader.Other enhancements include remote replication software for business continuity, which is based on EMC's Site Recovery Manager and MirrorView products. EMC is also offering the ability to manage multiple AX4 and Clariion CX devices from a single AX4 device, according to Ader.

The management software announced by EMC today is available now, with the replication software available in March.

With the advent of the AX4, the AX150 and CX300 are living on borrowed time. "We will keep them in the portfolio for a little while," says Ader, explaining that this could be "anywhere from three to six months."

Pricing for the entry-level version of the AX4, which is available today, starts at $8,600 for 3 Tbytes of storage. While EMC claims a number of beta customers, only one of these, Boston-based marketing consultancy Swervepoint, has been made public.

The AX4 will also be resold by EMC's partner, Dell, which is keen to ramp up its own efforts around iSCSI as that technology gains momentum as a low-cost alternative to Fibre Channel.Dell's pending $1.4 billion purchase of EqualLogic is evidence of the company's iSCSI interest, even though Dell spokespeople wouldn't comment this week on how it will integrate EqualLogic's products -- including low-end iSCSI wares -- into the Dell lineup.

Dell is aiming its version of EMC's product, named the AX4-5, at small-business customers who need a bit more storage and more scaleability than is offered by Dell's MD3000 or MD3000i SMB arrays. "The AX4-5 is for larger SMBs and remote branch offices," says Dell Product Marketing Manager Eric Cannell. "Fibre Channel is not an option on the 3000."

Dell plans to sell advanced management and replication software for the AX4-5 later in the first quarter. Pricing will start at about $12,260 for a bundle that includes hardware, software, and support services. No customers have been announced.

At least one analyst thinks that hiking the capacity of low-end systems is a shrewd move by EMC and, by extension, Dell. "A lot of people don't need the capacity immediately, but it gives them flexibility so that they can scale up when they need to," says Dave Hill, principal analyst at the Mesabi Group. "It's always nice to know that you can get the capacity without having to pre-invest."

EMC CEO Joe Tucci recently identified SMBs as a key focus for EMC during 2008, with the vendor looking to expand beyond its traditional enterprise customers.The vendor is also taking aim at a host of rival vendors with the launch of its latest low-end hardware. HP and IBM already have made waves in the SMB space. Despite today's announcements, HP appears to still have the edge in terms of capacity, with its 64-Tbyte MSA 1500 offering. IBM's low-end DS3000 series devices currently offer up to 14.4 Tbytes.

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  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Mesabi Group LLC

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