Q&A: Praveen Asthana, Dell's director of enterprise storage

His prediction: IT shops will not grow in head count and will need simpler tools

Dell director of enterprise storage Praveen Asthana

Dell director of enterprise storage Praveen Asthana

Dell has continued to move its storage product line and services upstream, adding more sophisticated software into its arrays, which have traditionally been targeted at small to midsize businesses. At the same time, the company says it will increase its offerings around cloud-based computing, both in on-site and off-site backup and disaster recovery.

At Storage Networking World, Computerworld spoke to Praveen Asthana, Dell's director of enterprise storage, and Larry Hart, senior product marketing manager, about Dell's future in the storage arena. The following are excerpts from that interview:

So how does the recent economic disaster affect Dell and its storage road map?

Asthana: I think there's going to be less of a trend towards esoteric or cool technologies that are overhyped. For us, it's a time to re-emphasize our core values.

Many of the strategies that we executed over the last four or five years ... are actually resonating even more now -- the whole concept of changing economical storage: making it simple, capable and affordable. They're simple words, but it's hard to do. I still need to store data; I still send tons of e-mails, probably more. The data growth isn't slowing down. Now the question is, how to I solve it?

And for Dell that's commodity storage?

Asthana: Not commodity. I think "commodity" has the connotation of dumb storage, if you will. People still want capable stuff. Just pure dollars for megabytes is not what they're looking for. What they're looking for is more capability at a price that fits their budget. A good example of that is the DL2000, which we announced last week. Basically, that brings in the stuff you want to do with backup: disk-based backup in a very easy-to- use and manageable and cost effective platform. It's certainly not commodity because it includes some very sophisticated software so that you don't have to do anything hard.

So what are customers telling you?

Asthana: What we're probably going to see in IT shops is that they're certainly not going to grow their head count in the next couple of years. In fact, downsizing is probably the norm right now. We've talked to customers that say, "We had five IT guys, and now I've got two. But the data is still the same amount. How do I manage all of that?"

De-duplication is being pitched as a cost-saving technology, but in many cases, it's more cost-effective to just throw cheap storage at the problem instead of using an expensive de-duplication appliance. How do you justify the cost of de-duplication?

Asthana: The DL2000 has file-level de-dup, but that's not as sophisticated as some of the de-dup appliances you can get out there. And we are going to be announcing a whole range of de-dup appliances. But for us, the question is, long term, where does de-dup actually sit in your stack? So if you look at backup software vendors, they are looking at de-dup appliances and [are] not too thrilled about being disenfranchised there. They are actively looking at putting de-dup in their own software.

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