Low-End Customers, High Priority

Storage vendors are back on message to drive small firms to SAN and NAS systems

July 26, 2006

4 Min Read
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From large enterprise storage vendors to emerging startups, companies are tailoring systems, software, devices, and services to drive SMBs to networked storage.

Think we're overstating the trend? Consider this trio of developments that unfolded just today:

  • EMC and IBM said they are selling QLogic's SANbox 1400 series of Fibre Channel switches for small businesses. The 10-port switches support 4-Gbit/s speeds. IBM will rebrand the switches the IBM System Storage SAN10Q Switch while EMC will resell the QLogic switches through its EMC Select reseller program. (See IBM Ships QLogic.)

  • EVault launched a business continuity consulting management practice aimed at helping SMBs recover from system outages. (See EVault Assists SMBs.) EVault consultants develop recovery strategies and business continuity plans, and conduct walkthroughs, scenario exercises, crisis management, and emergency response team exercises.

  • Breece Hill announced general availability of its BizGuardian disk-to-disk backup and recovery appliance for SMBs. The appliances hold up to 4 Tbytes and include EMC Retrospect backup and recovery software.

The SMB announcements come a day after Hewlett-Packard said it would roll out a new low-end IP SAN next month, less than two weeks after EMC said it would beef up its SMB storage system family, and a month after Network Appliance started shipping its first entry level storage system. (See HP Builds SANs for SMBs, EMC Eyes SMB Push, and NetApp Zeroes In on SMBs.)

Software vendors are getting into the act, too. On Monday, NetApp revealed partnerships involving backup and antivirus applications from Symantec, IBM, McAfee, and CommVault tailored for SMBs. (See Apps Support NetApp.)

As enterprise sales become increasingly tougher, vendors are looking to the SMB sector as a high growth area. EMC CEO Joe Tucci took time during a July 14 conference call to divulge plans to bump up his company's SMB system family. During IBM's earnings call last week, CFO Mark Loughridge talked about lengthening sales cycles in the enterprise while "growth in our SMB customers has remained solid."

Citing market research firms, HP worldwide marketing manager Debbie Young says the SMB market could hit $2.5 billion by 2008, and between 60 and 70 percent of SMBs are not yet using networked storage.

"It's the place to be," StorageIO Group analyst Greg Schulz says of SMBs. "That market's been somewhat underestimated, somewhat misunderstood, but it's starting to get the respect it deserves."Still, storage vendors didn't just recently discover the low end of the market. It's been highlighted as the fastest growing segment for more than two years now, but storage vendors haven't been able to make inroads. (See Ex-Siemens CTO Joins Net.com.) Vendors launching the latest round of products hope they finally have the right combination of features and pricing.

"Either the products were not feature rich, or the features were there and it was too expensive," Schulz says of early attempts to woo SMBs. "It's a matter of making technology easy to acquire, install, manage, and use, and making it affordable."

That's not so easy. Chuck Edwards, president of Seattle-based managed services provider Blue Gecko, recently installed a StoreVault with about 3 Tbytes as his first networked storage system.

"I want the same quality you get in the enterprise product, but I don't want to pay the same price," says Edwards, whose company backs up customer data. "For that tradeoff, I'm willing to give up features. To be specific, with StoreVault, it's the same NetApp kernel [Data Ontap operating system], it's not a dumbed-down storage server. It just doesn't have the same features, such as high-end management, snapshot, and replication."

Edwards says he preferred NetApp's DataOntap because it is a more robust operating system than Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, which HP and others use for low-end systems. He also runs CommVault Galaxy backup software rather than have the backup application built in. But one thing he doesn't want is Fibre Channel. StoreVault can be used as an iSCSI SAN or NAS. Eventually there will be Fibre Channel connectivity, but Edwards says he doesn't need it."It's a layer of complexity that we didn't want to add," he says. "I dont' want to have to keep re-educating staff on how to use Fibre Channel, plus it drives up the cost."

—Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Breece Hill LLC

  • CommVault Systems Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • EVault Inc.

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • McAfee Inc. (NYSE: MFE)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC)

  • The StorageIO Group

  • Symantec Corp.

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