When Michael Dell announced that his company was acquiring EqualLogic and its second-generation iSCSI storage system technology in November 2007, he said, "We now have the rocket fuel to put us in front" in the increasingly competitive data storage business.
Well, if the rocket fuel was in the tank, then Feb. 4 was the day Dell hit the ignition switch to launch the product. Whether it makes it to the top of the world storage market charts, of course, remains to be seen.
Five days after closing its $1.4 billion acquisition of EqualLogic, Dell began worldwide delivery of the smaller company's SAN (storage area network) arrays in the form of the Dell EqualLogic PS5000 series.
The new arrays use EqualLogic's top-of-the-line iSCSI architecture, which Dell says is twice as fast as conventional storage arrays and easier to install and maintain, thanks to a simpler-to-use management GUI and a new tool kit.
iSCSI architecture utilises the IP protocol to enable fully virtualised storage arrays and networks that work together across various kinds of hardware in a data center. Dell, as one might expect, also has made them quite price-competitive.
Entry-level system pricing begins at $19,000, which compares to $35,000 and up for comparable arrays from Hewlett-Packard, Network Appliance and IBM.
The rocket fuel quote from Michael Dell "may have been a bit of an overstatement at the time, but I think with the products they have announced today, the company is going to be in a much better position to act as a full-service systems vendor," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told eWEEK.
"Not only do they offer a full range of server products, but also some interesting and potentially very powerful and flexible storage solutions," King said.
Michael Dell: iSCSI is where we're going
Dell himself told eWEEK from company headquarters in Round Rock, Texas, that "the iSCSI market will be a $6 billion segment by 2011, and we made a decision a while back that's where we were going to go. We evaluated several possible candidates [for acquisition], and EqualLogic just turned out to be by far the best for us.
"Their blade technology is fabulous—40GB connectivity on the backplane, which uses 19 percent less power than comparable blades—and they fit right in with what our 27,000 channel partners were looking for. … It's all just easier to install and manage, it has every feature you'd need, and the EqualLogic brand just fits into any existing system, thanks to its built-in virtualization," Dell said.
"The market is moving to 100GB Ethernet, and virtualization works even better in that environment. We're the leading vendor of x86 systems in the world, and these new arrays and blades fit perfectly into our product offerings overall."
Shipments of iSCSI-based storage solutions will increase some 140 percent annually over the next five years, according to research company IDC.
"This is twice the growth we're seeing in the worldwide disk storage systems market," said Benjamin Woo, vice president of Enterprise Storage Systems at IDC. "Customers are turning to iSCSI as an easier way to integrate and manage their data center environments.
With its investment in EqualLogic and the expansion of its overall storage portfolio, Dell is clearly positioning itself to go after this trend."
The Dell EqualLogic PS5000 Series storage arrays will be sold through Dell channel partners as well as by Dell's direct sales force worldwide, a spokesperson said.