IP Crowd Sounds Off on EMC/Dell

iSCSI players say they'll still beat Fibre Channel in low-end systems, despite new Clariion

May 27, 2004

3 Min Read
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NEW YORK -- A lot of iSCSI marketing folk are going to need to rewrite their PowerPoint presentations real soon.

During a sparsely attended iSCSI panel at the CeBit America tradeshow here today, one panelist after another said Fibre Channel SANs lack the low cost and simplicity to address small businesses and departments.

Obviously, those scripts were written before EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) announced their new Clariion, which they happen to position as -- you got it -- a low cost and simple Fibre Channel product for small businesses and departments (see EMC, Dell Get Small With SATA).

When asked about the announcement after their presentations, the iSCSI company reps kept their cool. Their response to the EMC/Dell announcement is that IP SANs are the best answer for SMBs and departments looking to consolidate DAS, if not the only answer.

Head to head, most people go for iSCSI in small companies,” said David Dale, Network Appliance Inc.'s (Nasdaq: NTAP) industry evangelist and chairperson of the IP Storage Forum of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA). “Everybody knows Ethernet. Everybody doesn’t know Fibre Channel.”Dale said the Clariion AX100 has software scaled down from its other Clariion systems, and "it doesn’t reduce the complexity of Fibre Channel compared to iSCSI.”

EMC points out the AX100 ships with snapshot, path failover, and capacity expansion software features built in.

As EMC’s fiercest NAS competitor, NetApp is used to battling the Hopkinton, Mass.-based giant. Most of the IP SAN players are startups such as LeftHand Networks Inc., though. They’re trying to look on the bright side.

“[EMC and Dell] have validated the need for SMBs to move to network-based storage,” says LeftHand's marketing VP Tom Major. “I think it’s a placeholder for them to keep guys like us from eating into the SMB market.”

LeftHand offers distributed software over Ethernet-connected appliances, so Major holds that the EMC/Dell entry-level system lacks the software to make it as easy to manage as IP SANs. He also claims that even at $6,000 for an AX100, LeftHand can beat EMC on price (though he didn't give exact figures). He does give EMC credit for making the system available through channel partners, and easy to install and configure.“I salute their simplicity,” he said. “And over time, I bet they’ll offer iSCSI.”

That’s a bet he’d likely win. The CEOs of EMC and Dell admitted as much in a Webcast from London to announce the AX100. EMC’s Joe Tucci said the Clariion line “will do iSCSI SANs in the not-too-distant future.” Dell’s Kevin Rollins said, "Basically, they are both [Fibre Channel and iSCSI] going to have a place.”

Does the impending move of the major Fibre Channel SAN players into iSCSI scare the IP guys? They'll concede a bit o' trepidation. LeftHand's Major said EMC’s pricing and product worry him less than its size. “What scares me is they’re big and make a lot of noise in the market,” he said.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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