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Dell Eyes Enterprise Storage

Dell is continuing to reinvent itself as a storage OEM with a series of product announcements that leverage its acquisitions, move it up-market toward the lucrative enterprise space and create new opportunities in the burgeoning Microsoft SharePoint market. Although the company ended its very successful reseller relationship with storage leader EMC only two months ago, Dell grew its storage platform revenues--including its Equallogic and Compellent units--15% year over year in 2011, and they now represent nearly 80% of its storage revenues and more than 90% of its storage profits. The company's stated objective is to be the third-largest storage vendor behind EMC and IBM in the next couple of years.

With EqualLogic, Dell wrote the playbook for turning newly acquired storage IP into hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue from small and midsize enterprises, noted Network Computing blogger Frank Berry in a recent post. It appears Dell is running the playbook with Compellent and will be equally successful within midsize enterprises, he wrote.

The announcements include a disk-to-disk backup system with deduplication and compression that can reduce backup data by up to 15 times (DR4000); the latest release of Compellent Storage Center (6.0) that extends automated tiered storage capabilities and reduces storage total cost of ownership; a new offering for Microsoft SharePoint Infrastructure Optimization that provides improved management, capacity utilization and greater performance in collaboration and content management tasks; and support for Dell Force10 Ethernet and PowerConnect networking and Brocade 16-Gbit Fibre Channel SAN products. Collectively, the four announcements are intended to strengthen Dell's Fluid Data architecture, which the company says delivers the storage intelligence customers need to deal with a sea of constant IT change without driving up costs, wasting time or continually replacing infrastructure.

Available in the first quarter in 40-Tbyte, 81-Tbyte or 135-Tbyte effective storage capacities in a single appliance, the DR4000 features inline deduplication and compression, deduplicated replication, data protection and non-disruptive deployment, and is certified with leading backup software applications. Targeted at its main market, SMBs, it also should be of interest to remote offices of large enterprises in need of a disk-based backup solution, the company says.

Also due out this quarter, Storage Center 6.0 includes 64-bit support that doubles memory size to improve performance and scale and VMware vSphere Storage APIs for Array Integration that can speed deployment of virtual machines up to 40% faster, free up network and hosting resources and improve storage performance for data volumes shared by multiple virtual machines. Available for download, Dell Compellent Storage Replication Adapter (SRA) for Site Recovery Manager 5 supports new features such as automated failback from a disaster and new work flows for planned migration and downtime.

Shipping this month, the SharePoint solution is targeted at three sets of customer challenges, says Dell, including proactive capacity planning and management, to drive better storage efficiency and up to 40% increased application performance, business continuity to ensure consistent backups of the entire SharePoint infrastructure with up to 29 times and 32 times improvements in backup and recovery times, respectively, and flexible and scalable data governance through automated archiving. The company has also expanded support for Dell Force10, Dell PowerConnect and Brocade Storage Networking Solution, speeding storage deployment, increasing performance and simplifying administration through enhanced interoperability. The Brocade 6510 and Brocade DCX 8510 data center switches will be available in January, while the Force10 S4810 10-Gbit Ethernet switch and the deep-buffer S60 1-Gbit/10-Gbit Ethernet switches for EqualLogic and PowerConnect 8024 10-Gbit switches and M8024-k Blade IO modules are currently available.

These announcement really fit Dell's view that data moves in an enterprise and real value comes from addressing both the movement and improving the different "locations" where data will reside, says analyst Randy Kerns, Evaluator Group. The announcement part on Compellent Storage Center is about advancing it with the 64-bit architecture and in the VMware support. "What's significant there is that the Storage Center is really a storage application that the customer buys and then the hardware can be upgraded [to the next greatest Intel platform] underneath. That is a leveraged investment for the customer." The disk backup appliance using Ocarina technology is another one of those locations where data goes, and the SharePoint integration is recognition that it is a critical business application now, he says. And working in larger environments requires more interoperability with infrastructure elements such as switches.

When considered as a whole, these are advances address many higher-end enterprise requirements, says Kerns. "If you just look at a specific element, like the Compellent product alone with its different models, then the SMB is served. For the immediate future, they need to continue expanding the Compellent Storage Center to scale larger and continue to expand the feature base."

Extending Dell's reach into the enterprise by expanding its direct sales will probably be the next biggest challenge. "That takes time to build up and create long-term relationships."

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