Dell gets serious about NAS

With the announcement of three new storage servers based on Microsoft's Windows 2000 Advanced Server operating system, Dell moves to a new business model that focuses on building its own hardware.

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Dell announced Monday three new PowerVault network-attached storage (NAS) servers, one of the first set of servers to receive Microsoft Windows Hardware Compatibility List certification, which allow customers to use NAS servers to support their SQL Server 2000 databases.

The new NAS boxes also represent a move to a business model that focuses more on Dell designed hardware.

Aimed at small and medium sized businesses and workgroups, the Dell PowerVault 755N, 750N and 715N storage servers scale from 160GB to more than 7TB and are based on Microsoft?s Windows 2000 Advanced Server operating system.

The Austin, Texas-based Dell said the PowerVault NAS servers allow file access and sharing between Microsoft Windows, Novell NetWare, UNIX, Linux and Apple Macintosh operating systems. The products also include Dell?s ActiveArchives technology, which creates point-in-time snapshots of data. The NAS servers feature LAN-free backup software and can be configured with third-party software for backup, disk management or anti-virus protection.

Brad Nisbet, senior research analyst, International Data Corp. (IDC), a Framingham, Mass-based analyst firm, said what stands out in Dell's new NAS push is its shift in focus.

"For the past year or so, Dell as been OEMing their entry-level NAS ? the PowerVault 701N and 705N - and engineering their own midrange solutions - 735N, 750N/755N. With this new announcement, and with the Dell-EMC announcement a few weeks ago, we see that strategy actually get swapped: Dell is now engineering their own solutions in the entry-level and lower-midrange and co branding the upper-midrange space with EMC," said Nisbet.

Nisbet said this shift in strategy fits well with the Dell business model. Now the company can drive aggressive pricing on the entry-level products as they continue to become commoditized, he said. "As long as they were OEMing the entry-level products, they could only drive pricing down so far," he said. "In addition to the aggressive pricing, by engineering its own product, Dell has continued to drive the trend of adding increased functionality to entry-level products."

The key to the PowerVault 750N and 755N, said Jamie Gruener, senior analyst, for the Boston-based analyst firm, the Yankee Group, is that they are among the first products to receive Microsoft Windows Hardware Compatibility List certification, which allows customers to use NAS servers to support their SQL Server 2000 databases.

"The support is understated," said Gruener. "Right now a lot of people really haven't done enough to make the connection with applications and NAS."

Gruener said the new NAS products add to the story that Dell is trying to build around data storage. "They are getting a lot more serious," he said.

The PowerVault 750N and 755N servers are available now, priced starting at $8,700.

The PowerVault 715N is designed as a space-saver and fits in a standard server rack or on a tabletop. Scalable up to 400G Bytes, the product is targeted at small businesses or remote offices. The PowerVault 715N will begin shipping in November for prices starting at $1,999.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor

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