Dell unveils low-end NAS box with external storage

FRAMINGHAM (03/22/2004) - In a direct challenge to Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc. Monday announced its first Windows-powered network-attached storage (NAS) array that supports external storage, allowing for greater scalability for low-end boxes.

Dell said its PowerVault 745N is a 1U (1.75-in. high) rack-mounted storage server that uses external SCSI drives with processor speeds of up to 3.2 GHz and storage capacity ranging from 160 GB to 4TB. Dell said pricing for the PowerVault 745N array starts at US$1,799

Last May, EMC Corp. released a low-end NAS device that combines its Clariion CX200 disk array with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Powered NAS software. The NetWin 200 product can scale from 500GB to 4.4TB in storage capacity and starts at $32,000. Dell, which resells EMC's Clariion SAN and NAS devices, said it doesn't see its latest product as a challenge to its largest storage partner.

"One of our key goals is to offer enterprise-class functionality at very aggressive price points," said Bruce Kornfeld, director of worldwide marketing at Dell. "EMC is well aware of what we're doing, and we have great SAN and NAS products we sell with our partner in EMC."

HP, which considers itself the leader in the small-to-midrange storage market and has more than $21 billion in worldwide revenue, sells a similar 1U, rack-mounted NAS box -- the 1200 series -- but it doesn't offer external storage on the array. That limits its expandability, analysts said.

HP's 1200 NAS array retails for around $2,800.

Tom Kouri, a senior associate and director of IT at RSP Architects Ltd., which has about 240 employees and is based in Minneapolis and Phoenix, said he currently uses Dell's predecessor to the PowerVault 745N, the PowerVault 725N. Kouri said he's looking to upgrade to the 745N next fiscal year for its greater scalability.

Kouri originally looked at NAS boxes from HP, EMC, IBM and Iomega Corp.

"For us, the issue comes down to finding a balance of support, product, reliability and features -- not to mention cost. Every time we looked at the IBMs, EMCs, HPs and Compaqs to negotiate hardware, Dell was always able to give us a much better deal," Kouri said. "Hey, if you're selling the same box with a few different tweaks, what does it really come down to?"

The PowerVault 745N allows companies to make point-in-time copies of data for faster backup and recovery. It also offers reporting tools and Web-based management tools that have real-time systems utilization and performance information and that enable remote monitoring from a central console.

"It may seem like the (EMC and Dell) product lines have a lot of commonality, but I don't think that's a surprise. Dell, EMC and analysts knew over time Dell was going to exert its force, not only on EMC, but on all its partners," said Peter Gerr, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Milford, Mass.

But because of the vast difference in price between EMC's NAS servers and Dell's latest server, Gerr said they're targeting two different markets.

"I see this as Dell attacking the lower-end space. Dell is going after HP, Snap (Appliance Inc.), Gateway and Iomega," he said.

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