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Dell flies the flag for Fibre Channel

Lines up with EMC to give SCSI storage a good kicking

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Dell is championing Fibre Channel in its fight back against iSCSI and NAS, with its launch of a £5899 (E8499) low-end SAN kit which includes a Brocade switch, two QLogic host adapters and a new Dell-EMC storage subsystem based on Serial-ATA hard disks.

"We are taking Fibre Channel to new markets in smaller businesses and departments," said Neil Hand, the worldwide marketing director and co-lead of Dell's enterprise group. He says that with the right software tools on top, simplified installation and standard services, Fibre Channel SANs can more than hold their own against the competition.

EMC boss Joe Tucci agreed, saying that iSCSI has its place and will eventually appear on the AX100, but adding: "We're bringing the cost per Fibre Channel port down to a level people said it would never reach. We are trying to offer a SAN at a price that's very competitive with DAS."

Dell hopes the SAN package will appeal to customers who would previously have bought its Powervault SCSI subsystems. It also sees significant opportunities in Europe for a £3499/E4999 direct-attached version of the AX100, which comes with a single HBA and gives the option of building a SAN later.

The package is very much aimed at smaller businesses, as its growth potential is restricted. For example, its SAN connectivity takes the shape of Brocade's Silkworm 3250 VL2E eight-port switch. This was specifically designed to cut the cost of getting into Fibre Channel by limiting the fabric to a maximum of two switches, although it is upgradeable to full fabric capability.

Similarly, the Dell-EMC Clariion AX100 storage box starts with three 160GB drives for 480GB, or around 320GB usable if you put RAID-5 on it. It takes a maximum of 12 SATA drives, giving 3TB if you fit 250GB units, and beyond that all you can do is add another box.

Tucci says that the AX100 is specifically designed to be installed and set up by end users. "I tried it myself and installed it in just over half an hour," he said.

"It's geared to a market that EMC has never gone to before," he added, quoting market forecasts that show significant growth for networked storage sales to smaller businesses. "We sold to data centres, but teaming with Dell we have used its experience to drive our technology down to SMEs and SoHo, and also to workgroups and branches within enterprises.

"SME customers are much more likely to buy storage and servers from one vendor, and we don't sell servers. Enter: Dell," Tucci added. "And who's our competition there? It's IBM and HP, so this partnership makes us much more effective against them.

"So we collaborated with Dell on what do we need to do to hit this market, what price points, what ease of use - ease of use is not something our engineers had concentrated on as much as they might have."

Clariion is now a $1bn business for EMC, with a third of that going direct, a third through Dell and the rest through other resellers. With the AX100, the direct share will disappear, Tucci says.

"it's a very different model with Dell compared to our other OEMs," he added. "Dell builds, and then pays us a fee per machine, so in one way our margin on a Dell sale is 100 percent, although the revenue is lower." ®

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