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Dell says having one IT vendor simplifies storage

Despite recent market trends to the contrary, Dell storage executives maintain customers want to buy storage and servers from the same vendor.

To make this case, they point to a recent survey conducted by Forrester Consulting and sponsored by Dell. That survey of around 800 IT leaders and storage administrators in the U.S. and Europe shows that most see value in buying storage, servers, networking and IT services from one vendor.

That’s not how it’s been working out, though. Recent storage revenue tracking reports from IDC and Gartner – as well as vendors’ earning reports -– show pure-play storage vendors EMC, NetApp and Hitachi Data Systems have gained market share at the expense of Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard (HP). Pure-play storage vendors say that’s because they innovate more than server and infrastructure vendors who dabble in storage.

Dell has built its storage business independent of servers, however, with the acquisitions of array vendors EqualLogic and Compellent plus storage software acquisitions. And Dell execs point out revenue from products with their storage IP have increased over the last year. Dell’s overall storage numbers are down because they reflect the loss of revenue generated by Dell’s discontinued OEM deal with EMC.

“There’s another story on Dell’s numbers,” said Travis Vigil, executive director for Dell storage. “PowerVault, EqualLogic and Compellent sales are increasing. With EqualLogic, we went from 4,000 customers to close to 50,000 customers [since 2008]. The Compellent business has also scaled quickly at Dell. When you look at Dell storage IP, we’re gaining share in the market.”

While developing its own storage, Dell is also integrating it with its server and networking technology in converged products. Today marked the general availability of the EqualLogic Blade Array previewed at Dell Storage Forum in June. The Blade Array packages EqualLogic iSCSI storage with PowerEdge blade servers and Force10 MXL switches in a 10U chassis.

Mike Quirin, IT manager for the SAN and VMware for Italy-based transportation company Ansaldo STS, said he tested the EqualLogic Blade Array and will likely purchase a few. Quirin, based in Ansaldo’s U.S. data center in Pittsburgh, Pa., said he uses EMC storage in the data center but finds the blades a good fit for systems sent out to customers with custom applications for monitoring and reporting.

He said the Blade Array lets customers quickly configure the converged system without any IT intervention.

“Most of the solutions we sent out to customers are blade solutions,” he said. “We had a chassis filled with eight blades and separate storage. With the Blade Array, we could send out a data center in a box without external cabling and hassles. I could get this up and running in 15 minutes without any instructions at all.”
Quirin agrees there are advantages to buying equipment from one vendor. He said he bought most of his EMC storage through Dell. “It makes it easier for us to not run around with too many different vendors,” he said.

The Forrester survey of 513 IT storage administrators and 284 CIOs, managers and directors, found that 54% of each group said they see “some value” and consider buying storage from the same vendor they buy servers and networking from. Thirty-four percent of the storage admins and 32% of the CIO group said they do it when possible, but only 9% of each group said they do it exclusively.

Other findings in the survey weren’t exactly shocking. Most IT leaders and storage admins find managing storage a complex task, they want technology that is automated and easier to use, and 48% said they could spend more time developing business strategy if managing storage didn’t take up so much time.

One noteworthy finding was that 85% said they would consider paying more for a storage system if it saves a considerable amount of work time.

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