For a long time now, the editors at Network Computing have liked EqualLogic. Its products are easy to manage and perform extremely well, turning in some great performance numbers in our labs. The genius if the EqualLogic design is that as you grow your storage pool, you grow the compute power by adding controllers. It isn't the only company to take this approach, but it's done one of the better jobs on implementation.
This building block approach fits right into Dell's strategy for utility computing announced a few years ago. While Dell had talked about its building block approach, this is one of the few recent signs that the strategy is alive and well. One thing that's served to resurrect it is the relatively difficult process of configuring VMware to use SANs for both OS image and data storage.
As EMC had probably hoped from the outset, virtualization has spurred more interest in SANs from small and midsize enterprises as well as the big boys. But somewhat ironically, it's not trivial to get VMware set up to use a SAN for all its storage need (something that's a must have if VMotion is on the agenda.) As a result, system vendors are working to more closely couple their storage and server offerings.
Sun, for example, recently moved its storage division into its system group. Along with that, John Fowler, Sun's EVP who manages the group tell me that one of his strategies for returning the haughty double digit growth rates of a couple years ago is to beef up Sun's channel distribution. It seems the that increasingly sophisticated needs of the mid market is drawing a lot of attention.
My guess is that Dell may do better here than Sun with this part of the middle market, and that the EqualLogic purchase will turn out to be a good one. Dell now owns about the best iSCSI SAN products, and its straightforward server designs will similarly appeal. If the company can achieve good integration and make the combined platform turnkey for virtualization, it'll be hard to beat.
One wonders what this all means for Dell's relationship with EMC, which calls for building some of EMC's lower end iSCSI systems, ones which are not as good as EqualLogic's.