Something that has been talked about openly in storage circles for more than two years has come to pass: Dell and EMC are parting ways in selling storage hardware, and they are ending their agreement two years early.
Now Dell and EMC are officially competitors. Following a complicated 10-year partnership that was to run until 2013, Dell revealed Oct. 17 that it has officially discontinued reselling all EMC storage products. This includes Dell-branded EMC OEM and resold EMC storage products, including CLARiiON, Celerra, Data Domain and VNX.
EMC and Dell had partnered to sell not only branded EMC storage systems of various sizes to midrange and SMB markets but also EMC-made but Dell-branded NAS gateways, backup disk arrays, midrange 10Gb Ethernet arrays and myriad other storage-related products.
This news was hardly unexpected. EMC announced a few months ago the discontinuation of its older CLARiiON and Celerra storage lines in favor of its new VNX machines and new-generation storage lines from Data Domain and Isilon, companies it acquired in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
When Dell bought EqualLogic in 2007 and followed that with the acquisition of Compellent in 2010, they turned out to be deals that eventually were going to make reselling another company's arrays redundant -- especially in the low-margin IT hardware business.
CLARiiON and Celerra served EMC well for 15 years as a result of the Data General acquisition in 1996.
Partnership Was Fruitful for Years
Basically, the decade-long partnership had worked because EMC provided the hardware and software to its sales partner, Dell, which then rebranded the package under its more well-known name and modified some of the add-on features and support offerings.
But it could be confusing to potential buyers because Dell and EMC sometimes marketed the same product under both brand names, offering slightly different feature sets, support packages and price ranges.
This caused friction on the sales sides of both companies, to say the least. There were times when salespeople from Dell and EMC have competed for the same customer, selling basically the same arrays.
Data center managers with Dell/EMC equipment and service-level agreements won't have to worry for a while, however. Dell said it will continue to provide these existing users with services and support and hardware upgrades (with Dell hardware) until they are ready to be replaced.
"We are 100 percent committed to providing quality service and support to our existing Dell/EMC customers, but the future is Dell storage intellectual property and the robust, end-to-end Fluid Data architecture we are delivering," Dell Storage Vice President and General Manager Darren Thomas told eWEEK via email.
Dell's corporate Fluid Data strategy initiative is based on the style and IP of Compellent's automated data-tiering storage hardware.
"Dell is making serious investments in both acquisition and internal development to assemble a competitive storage portfolio that provides customers with superior technology, such as automated tiering, virtualization and content aware deduplication and compression," Thomas said. "Our customers are seeing the benefits of Dell's storage portfolio and the context within a broader data center strategy as compared to storage products built around costly and old architectures."
Dell's $2 billion Investment in Storage
Over the past three and half years, Dell said it has invested more than $2 billion to expand its own lines of storage products aimed at virtualized, cloud-based data centers. EMC has positioned its refreshed storage products in exactly the same way.
Dell also said it will invest another $1 billion this fiscal year in a range of technology hardware and software in order to extend its reach into the data center, mobile and cloud environments. Storage systems from EqualLogic and Compellent are tailor-made for this initiative.
Editor's note: This story was updated to add more detailed information about Dell's continuing service, software and hardware offerings for joint EMC/Dell customers.