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EMC to compete with HP's low-end SAN

EMC has jumped into the entry-level SAN market. Analysts say vendors already in the market need to take note only because EMC had the wisdom to partner with Dell, a company securely rooted in the low-end arena.

Now that storage area networks (SANs) are entrenched in enterprise data centers, a new battle has erupted over the entry-level market. While the storage arrays may be smaller, EMC's entrance into the fray has made the fight for small SAN supremacy a fierce one.

EMC's announcement earlier this week of the entry-level Clariion server, the CX200, marked the first year anniversary of EMC's partnership with Dell Computer Corp. Dell will manufacture the CX200 storage system in its facilities in Texas, Ireland and Malaysia.

While the product may be EMC's foray into the low-end SAN space, it's the storage giant's partnership with Dell that will give it an edge in this market.

John Webster, co-founder and president of the Data Mobility Group Inc., Nashua, N.H., said that EMC's relationship with Dell will strengthen its attempt to make inroads with companies looking for midrange storage devices.

"If you believe that the Microsoft customer base represents the next big opportunity for storage vendors, then EMC's relationship with Dell will be a plus as it markets [these products], because users tend to buy servers and storage together," he said.

The CX200 shares a common architecture, components, management software and FLARE operating environment with its larger siblings, the Clariion CX600 and Clariion CX400, which was announced earlier this month, and provides an upgrade path through its modular design.

EMC tailored versions of its Navisphere and PowerPath software for CX200 requirements. Navisphere Base manages a single CX200 system and PowerPath Base offers path failover.

The CX200 delivers 25,000 I/Os per second of throughput and 200M byte/sec of bandwidth in cached environments, the company said.

The CX200 can scale to 2.2T bytes capacity and supports Windows 2000, NT, Linux and Novell Netware environments.

As expected, some of EMC's competition was quick to respond to the debut of the CX200.

"This is low-end for EMC, but it's nowhere close to low-end for the rest of the market," said Tom Rallens, director of online storage for Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Network Storage Solutions group.

Rallens said that HP's MSA1000 storage array has equal performance at half the price of EMC's CX200 and scales to 3T bytes versus the CX200's 2.2T bytes.

"We've been in the market with this product for a year," Rallens said. "But it's not just the product that the customer cares about in this space. They look at the solution environment."

Rallens said that HP trumps the CX200 in the area of data migrating from direct-attached storage (DAS) to a networked storage environment. He said a user can remove DAS drives and plug them directly into the MSA1000.

"The issue is: in this entry space the customer is coming from DAS into a SAN. That's what most people buy this stuff for," Rallens said.

Responding to Rallens' comments, EMC spokesperson Justin Bartinoski said the MSA1000 "leaves customers stranded."

Bartinoski said EMC is offering an entry point into a next-generation full 2G byte solution with industry leading technology that scales with the customer's requirements while preserving investments in hardware, software, training and processes.

"The CX200 does this - the MSA1000 doesn't," he said. "The MSA1000 is a one trick pony."

The MSA1000 does lag behind EMC's CX200 in performance. Both arrays run 25,000 I/Os per second of throughput, but the CX200 has 200M byte/sec of bandwidth in cached environments compared to the MSA1000's 160M byte/sec.

Price is paramount, and while the entry-level Clariion CX200 starts at $30,000, the HP MSA1000 starts at $18,200 for a similar configuration.

Marc Farley, storage expert and author of Building Storage Networks, 2nd Edition, said it is difficult for EMC to get the cost down to entry-level pricing with the amount of overhead the company has. But he said it is achievable through EMC's partnership with Dell.

"The channel strategy with Dell is what worries HP, and it should. I would think this will be a successful product, except for the weak economic forecast," Farley said. "The interesting thing about this product is that its success lies with Dell, not EMC, and that is something new for EMC."

"The CX200 is Fibre Channel-attached only. The only problem I can see to migrate to the CX200 would be if the server had SCSI-only capabilities and not Fibre Channel. Otherwise, I don't see a problem," said Dianne MacAdam, senior analyst with Illuminata Inc., Nashua, N.H.

"[HP's products] can support more operating systems than the CX200. But I think that one of the target markets for the CX200 for EMC and Dell is Windows customers," MacAdam said.

EMC's CX200 is jockeying for position in the entry-level market not only against HP's MSA1000, but also IBM Corp.'s FastT storage servers, Sun Microsystems Inc.'s T3 product line, and arrays from LSI Logic Corp. and Dot Hill Systems Corp.

Let us know what you think about the story: e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer


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