Dell's storage business growing

Dell pushes simplicity, affordability and balanced scalability for storage market

At its annual Technology Day in New York next week, Dell is expected to talk about its storage and server roadmaps and make what it says is a significant storage announcement. Network World Senior Editor Deni Connor this week caught up with Praveen Asthana, director of Dell storage to talk about the company's storage strategy. Although Asthana discussed where Dell is going in storage, he declined to comment on next week's storage news and the company's pending OEM relationships with Overland Storage for low-end tape library products and with Engenio for low-end disk, which will compete with the Dell/EMC AX100 storage array.

How do you see the state of the storage market over the next six months for Dell?

We are seeing lots of data growth, lots of complexity and lots of cost. We have government regulations to worry about; customers are spending more than 40 percent of their storage budget on disk already and they have 5,200 percent data growth, but their storage budget isn't growing by much. Customers need a way to solve this equation.

What common themes do you see in storage?

We are pushing on the basic themes of storage -- simplicity, affordability and balanced scalability. If you look at simplicity, one of the trends we are driving is reducing deployment costs and the complexity of storage so storage is as easy to install as servers are right now. There are products from Dell that do that -- one of them is the entry-level AX100 storage-area network array.

If you look at affordability, there are key technologies we are pushing hard on such as Serial ATA drives. We introduced a direct-attached array, the MD1000, earlier this year -- it has both Serial Attached SCSI and Serial ATA compatibility. ISCSI is another technology that has been talked about as the technology of the future -- we are actually seeing a lot more pick up of it this year. We have the AX150 array that has both iSCSI and Fibre Channel capability. These products are primarily playing to our customer base, which is midsize businesses that are looking for easy-to-use, simple storage.

How do the data needs of those smaller customers differ from those of larger businesses?

If you talk about data growth, many of the smaller customers have significant data storage needs. That's surprising to us since we often find that small customers have the same data storage needs as larger customers, but they don't have the budgets. They are looking for capable storage at entry level pricing. We are adding more functionality into our storage.

How are you adding that functionality?

We are putting in snapshot capability, mirroring and replication.

You talk of the notion of balanced scalability. What do you mean by that?

If you look at a customer's infrastructure, it will consist of multiple components that scale independently but somehow depend on each other for operation. You can have primary disk storage, secondary storage, tape, management software and servers. What happens as data needs grow is that customers will have to do forklift upgrades because their gear can't be upgraded. That's expensive. We are pushing modularity in everything we sell, so you can do balanced scaling without having to do forklift upgrades.

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