Dell Inc. today extended its storage lineup, expanding its OEM deal with EMC Corp. by launching Dell-branded versions of EMC's Celerra unified storage and Data Domain backup devices while detailing plans for an object storage platform.
Dell has been reselling Celerra and Data Domain devices, but will now sell most of those models under its own brand. The Dell DX Object Storage Solution platform is based on Dell hardware integrated with software from a slew of partners.
EMC and Dell have co-branded Clariion midrange SAN systems since 2001. With these rollouts, Dell continues its storage strategy of partnering with EMC while also selling its own — and sometimes competitive — storage. Despite its long-standing Clariion partnership, for instance, Dell acquired iSCSI SAN vendor EqualLogic two years ago and has become the iSCSI market leader.
Dell moves into enterprise NAS
Dell will sell EMC Celerra systems as the Dell/EMC NS-120, NS-480 and NS-960 models. The systems handle NAS, Fibre Channel (FC) and iSCSi storage.
While Dell already sells Windows-based NAS, this is its first step into enterprise file-based systems. Dell senior product manager Brett Roscoe said EMC's adding support for block-based storage to the Celerra was a driver of that decision.
"We are recognizing a trend in the industry to drive pools of storage into one consolidated environment," Roscoe said. "We've traditionally been a block storage vendor, but we talked to EMC some time ago about developing an NS system for Dell."
Andrew Reichman, a senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, said Celerra lets Dell scale into larger storage accounts for customers looking for Ethernet storage than EqualLogic does.
"Having NAS and iSCSI natively in the same box, as Celerra gives you, is a great option," Reichman said. "EqualLogic is good for small, single-box deployments, but it doesn't scale as big as some companies want to, so that's where EMC comes in."
Dell isn't solely committed to EMC for NAS — and probably not for multiprotocol — storage in the long run. Dell recently acquired the assets of clustered NAS vendor Exanet Inc. Roscoe said Dell is working on products using Exanet technology, possibly as a gateway in front of EqualLogic systems.
"We believe Exanet IP will be a strong play in the file storage space," he said.
Forrester's Reichman said he's interested in Dell's plans for Exanet, comparing it to Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co.'s acquisition of clustered NAS startup Ibrix Inc. last year.
"Exanet was mainly a high-performance NAS player," Reichman said. "It's software only, so it's a good fit for Dell, just like Ibrix is for HP. Ibrix and Exanet are similar. You can layer that onto Dell's industry-standard platforms. But where's it going to fit? Will EqualLogic customers want it, and can you layer that directly onto an EqualLogic box, or would it be a separate box?"
Dell also today launched the PowerVault NX3100, part of its Windows Storage Server 2008-based NAS platform. The PowerVault NX3100 scales to 24 TB of internal and 384 TB of external storage, and is qualified to work with EqualLogic iSCSI and EMC storage.
More data deduplication for Dell
Dell will sell Data Domain data deduplication systems as the Dell/EMC DD140, DD610 and DD630 models. The DD140 is for remote offices, while the DD600 models are for midrange and small enterprises. Dell will not brand EMC's DD880 large enterprise arrays. Many storage industry watchers have expected this move since EMC acquired data deduplication market leader Data Domain last summer.
Again, Dell isn't depending on EMC for data deduplication. It rolled out the PowerVault DL2100 Powered by Symantec Backup Exec 2010 earlier this month and also sells a DL2100 Powered by CommVault Simpana 8, which it upgraded today with better integration with EqualLogic.
Dell's Roscoe said the PowerVault DL2100 "was a source-based integrated solution with backup software included. Data Domain is target based for large heterogeneous IP environments for customers who may not have Symantec or CommVault."
Forrester's Reichman agrees that the PowerVault DL2100 and Data Domain boxes likely appeal to different customers now, but said that line is blurring because the backup software applications also work with target devices.
"I do think there's an emerging battle because the two impinge on each other's value proposition," he said. "CommVault can do source-based deduplication and talk to any disk target. CommVault says you're better off with Simpana and any basic back-end storage. Data Domain says get rid of intelligent backup software and just use our box. It's unclear which way the market is going to move, whether the intelligence will be in the disk target or backup software products."
Move to object storage
Dell is also joining the move to object storage, which generally uses APIs such as Representational State Transfer (REST) as an alternative to NAS protocols NFS or CIFS for file storage.
Dell identified a list of software partners but did not offer many details on the new systems, which will launch next month. Dell's Roscoe said the hardware is based on a 2U 12-drive x86 server node sold by Dell today. He said the system will scale to petabytes, and Dell will release specs closer to its May release.
Dell plans object systems for healthcare, file and email archiving, e-discovery and content management in the first half of this year, with a cloud system also in the works. It's working with ISVs to develop horizontal and vertical solutions for the platform through an open HTTP interface. Dell says the system will eventually also support NFS, CIFS and XAM.
Dell's partners on this front include Acuo Technologies, Bridgehead Software Limited, Karos Health and TeraMedica Inc. for medical archiving; CommVault, EMC, StoredIQ, Open Text Corp. and Symantec for e-discovery and content management; and EMC, CommVault, Iron Mountain Inc., Moonwalk, Stealth Software and Symantec for email and SharePoint archiving.
Roscoe said the systems would be self-healing and policy driven. "If there's a hardware failure, the system-recognized data is no longer in policy and corrects it before distributing data across other nodes."
He declined to say what software would enable these features.
Forrester's Reichman said without knowing the full specs of the DX Object Storage Solution platform, "it's hard to evaluate if it's a kludgey mess or a tight product."
He said it's no surprise that Dell didn't turn to EMC for its object-based Centera CAS (content-addressed storage) archiving system that mostly targets large enterprises.
"Centera's not a good fit for Dell customers," Reichman said. "I think software-focused content storage is growing in popularity."