EMC's latest array gets industry in a flutter

EMC's new Clariion CX600 midrange disk array, mentioned in my last column, is off to an exciting start in the press, where there has seemed to be more fussing about the machine's positioning in the marketplace than about its technical capabilities.

A big issue has been the question of whether aggressive CX600 sales will negatively impact sales of EMC's high-end Symmetrix line. The concern here is that price points at the lower end of the Symmetrix line are likely to approach - and perhaps overlap - those of the upper end CX600 machines, and that is where some writers have seen an opportunity for conflict.

When my friend Roberto (an IT manager)read all this stuff he squirmed with excitement. He often uses EMC equipment, and was looking to squeeze a bargain out of the situation. But I think he is going to be disappointed.

These crossover points between product lines are always exciting to watch, particularly when they are sold by competing sales forces within the same large company. The industry has a long history of such internal "channel conflicts," where one line is eventually cannibalized to the benefit of the other, and even when we understand such history we still often seem doomed to repeat it. Nonetheless, it's a reasonably good bet that EMC has thought this one out pretty clearly; so don't expect a whole lot of opportunities to play one channel against the other.

Besides, although some of the Symmetrix's software functionality (PowerPath and MirrorView) has been brought over to the new CX600, the two lines really are quite distinct.

If you are trolling the waters for new equipment, just determine which product line carries the features that you need, and take it from there. That means comparing apples to apples (Clariion to the midrange systems from Sun and HP) and oranges to oranges (Symmetrix boxes to systems such as Hitachi's Lightening and IBM's Shark). In the end, any opportunities you may have to dicker over the pricing will have little to do with a Clariion-Symmetrix conflict.

Of course, this may all be a tempest in a teacup anyway. High-end Clariion arrays will likely have much less impact on the marketplace than their less-robust cousins in the Clariion line, which will be rolling out later this year. If you want to anticipate where the real action is going to be, at least as far as hardware is concerned, these low-end Clariions are a good spot to place your bets.

Here's why.

Lower priced Clariions, built with manufacturing partner Dell, will offer a real opportunity for EMC to push down into the small and midsized (SMB) business market. This segment is served vigorously by the reseller community, and if the EMC-Dell manufacturing relationship causes the kind of operational efficiencies that the companies hope for, Clariion machines will offer a compelling story for many of the resellers servicing this segment.

Recently published research by Enterprise Management Associates (http://www.emausa.com/channelsstudy.html) points out quite clearly the importance of margins when resellers select vendor partners. That, plus an existing demand for the EMC name in the SMB space, will make this a very attractive offering to resellers.

It's just a simple matter of execution...

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