EMC’s small-firm SAN package has potential: analysts

Analysts are giving the thumbs-up to EMC and Dell’s new CLARiiON AX100 package, aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, but say EMC needs to expand its channel presence to get the most out of the product.

The AX100 offers up to 3TB of storage, is available either in SAN or direct-attached form and includes management software which can be accessed from a web-based interface.

IDC Australia storage analyst, Graham Penn, said because the AX100 was a channel-sold product it would only be successful if channel partners marketed it and EMC had a limited number of capable channel partners.

Research director for servers and storage at Gartner Australia, Phillip Sargeant, said EMC had a significant channel segment already, but it probably needed to give greater attention to the channel.

This was a channel product, Sargeant said, and EMC would have to develop some more channel partners.

Dell is already a channel for the product and Penn said the AX100 would initially be made by EMC, then also by Dell.

The company is making a concerted effort on the small and medium-sized business (SMB) front: it has released several products of late, most recently a network-attached storage device, the NetWin 110. In 2002 EMC acquired Prisa Networks for its storage area network management product; in 2003, it snapped up Astrum Software for its storage resource management software.

EMC claims the AX100 takes less than an hour to install and Penn said it was ideal for the market it was aimed at, which wantedsomething easy to use and install. This was one of the design goals.

What made the AX100 so cheap was its use of serial ATA drives, he said.

“That was done in the interests of price," Penn said. "High performance isn’t an issue, [SMBs] are interested in capacity.”

The capacity, up to 3TB, is more than enough for most SMBs and while it was limit and would be pitched that way by competitors, it was not really a limitation at all, he said.

Customers who reached that threshold would buy another AX100, as upgrading to EMC’s higher-end CLARiiON CX would not be possible without a total reinstall, EMC Australia country manager, Mark Heers, said.

Penn said the AX100 was a competitor to products such as HP’s StorageWorks MSA1000.

Sargeant said the potential for success was definitely there, as SMBs were showing a lot more interest in networked storage than they were a year ago.

“We’re noticing more and more uptake of storage networking by SMBs across the Asia-Pacific region and if you look back 12 to 18 months, SANs and NAS were seen as expensive and complex and needing skills,” he said.

The AX100 put a different price point on things, he said.

Penn said putting a figure on the lower limit of employee numbers for it to be viable for a business to get an AX100 was difficult, but those with more than 100 would definitely be candidates, or even 40-50 if it was a law firm or marketing department with lots of documents.

EMC and Dell are also pitching the AX100 to larger organisations, for use at branch offices.

The NAS NetWin 110 product is based on Microsoft’s Windows Storage Server 2003 technology and attaches directly to a gigabit ethernet network.

It is meant to replace the direct-attached storage and file server environments many small businesses use.

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