Dell, EMC Hook Up Again on Entry-Level Storage System

Storage package for midtier businesses offers choice between iSCSI and Fibre Channel ports and can run Exchange, SQL and Oracle applications with data protection.

Data storage partners and competitors Dell and EMC-two companies that have one of the strangest and most complicated business relationships in all of IT-Jan. 8 unveiled new entry-level storage arrays for small and midsize businesses, arrays that are mirror images of each other.

In fact, they are the same product marketed under different brand names and offering slightly different feature sets, support packages and price ranges.

As it has been doing for several years, EMC provides the hardware and software to its sales partner, Dell, which then rebrands the package under its more well-known name and modifies some of the add-on features and support offerings.

Dell's new array is called the Dell AX4-5; EMC's is the Clariion AX4.

"No surprises here," Greg Schulz, founder and senior storage analyst with The StorageIO Group, told eWEEK. "Just as it has done in the past, Dell traditionally mirrors whatever EMC Clariion announcement is made with their own branded version of it."

Both the Clariion AX4 and the Dell AX4-5 can be expanded from three to 60 drives, and, by next March, will have the software to support 1TB hard drives and up to 60TB of data for one system, Eric Cannell, Dell product line manager for Dell-EMC arrays, told eWEEK.

The software, which currently supports 750GB drives, is by EMC. The same software is used for both products. Both arrays are built on the original EMC CX3 architecture, which has had a long life span in EMC's catalog.

Both arrays can be configured for either Fibre Channel or iSCSI networks. But the most important new feature is that they support mixed drive configurations within the array itself: SAS (serial-attached SCSI)drives for high performance or SATA (Serial ATA) drives for better capacity.

Both products have also been touted for their flexibility, as well as a new, simplified wizard-type installation and deployment interface that allows even a user who is not an IT specialist to get the product up and running.

So what are the major differences between the two, besides the branding?

"The feature set and pricing are different, based on what Dell decides as an OEM," Schulz said. "I would expect Dell to come in a couple of price points below where EMC is at, given at how Dell plays in the market and its approach to bringing more lower-cost value."

In fact, the pricing is about the same. For a four-hard drive system, with a maximum 3TB SATA capacity, up to 10 hosts and a medium-range service support package, both will have an asking price of about $12,000. Additional features, such as replication and data migration-used mainly by data centers with 100 or more storage servers-are also available at extra cost.

Both arrays are nothing if not configurable. There is one EMC configuration that features three hard drives and slightly less capacity for about $8,600, EMC Senior Director of Product Marketing Barry Ader told eWEEK. The high-end configurations can skyrocket up to 10 times the price.

"In this case, the EMC features are a bit richer and more mature, thus better for slightly larger data centers," Brian Garrett, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, told eWEEK. "That stuff in the EMC product is very mature. At least a decade old is the code base underneath, and they've been continually trying to make that easier [to use] and integrate well with applications. For example, the fact that you can integrate it well with Exchange to do [e-mail] replication and easy recovery ... that's an area where EMC's platform is rich [and] has more experience."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...