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Serving Up Storage

The storage market is booming as content management, e-mail archiving and other applications continue to drive the amount of storage capacity required by customers. Can custom-system builders tap into this growing arena?
Some are. About 44 percent of system builders in the CRN Fast-Growth System Builders survey in June reported that they were building storage devices, up from 37 percent the prior year. And those that did, on average, reported building about twice as many storage units in 2003 as the prior year.

As custom server business has grown rapidly over the past two years, it only makes sense that storage, to some degree, would follow. Still, a storage market in the system builder channel has been slow to develop. Storage units still comprised only 2 percent of all units built by system builders last year, and few were reporting significant volumes.

But for system builders looking to add storage to their custom-system menu, storage arrays and appliances are gradually providing a new business opportunity with margins that can rival servers. Success, though, depends on finding the right customers and applications, solution providers say.

And those distributors and custom-system solution providers that are building storage arrays and NAS appliances are typically not aiming at a broad market, but rather are attaching custom storage to their server sales.

About half of the servers sold by Tangent Computer, a Burlingame, Calif.-based solution provider, include an external direct-attached RAID subsystem, said Chris Pirvan, director of engineering. "Customers who buy servers ask for additional storage," he said. "So we know what [the arrays] hook to."

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