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Dell: 'We'll clobber pricey NetApp with new iSCSI kit'

'We didn't say that'

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Asthana said Dell will go after the big boys by reducing operational costs and making storage products that are customer installable and maintainable rather than services engagement needy. Dell certainly isn't the only company gunning after SMBs with all-in-one, multi-protocol boxes, but Asthana feels Dell will set itself apart by crafting cheaper storage that doesn't skimp on features.

"Some of our competitors are making cheaper storage devices, but they're not more capable," said Asthana. "They won't do it because they don't want to cannibalize their upper tier storage."

We're still looking at you, NetApp.

Asthana believes virtualization has made iSCSI evolve beyond being a poor man's SAN. Specifically, Fibre Channel is a physical storage protocol and requires administrators to map storage LUNs through a hypervisor to the virtual machines. Reassigning those LUNs because of hardware changes or because you're after the fabled dynamic application provisioning ends up as a painful, manual task. And, god forbid, you get into physical-to-virtual and virtual-to-physical virtual machine maneuvering.

(You've seen HP, for example, try and work around this with its Virtual Connect technology built into blade boxes where you wire the systems once and then let software handle changes. Dell hasn't ruled out coming up with something similar, despite its iSCSI leanings.)

"When you move information around on Fibre there's a lot of room for error," Asthana said. "And though IT professionals hate to admit it, the number one case of downtime is human error."

iSCSI is a virtual protocol, so the IP layer is abstracted from the physical. This allows every virtual machine to establish a flexible connection with a storage array.

All of this iSCSI advocation points to Dell sharpening its fangs for a larger product roll out that should see a hardware/software blend around iSCSI and virtualization technologies— but Asthana isn't ready to give any specifics. In May, the company talked up a similar attack around its upcoming blade server line, saying the systems should ship with embedded virtualization software of some sort in the third quarter.

Looking longer term, there also seem to be hints that Dell is creating its own file system for large-scale storage systems or is working hand-in-hand with a partner to deliver one. Such software would again prove valuable in the virtualization arms race.

In the short term, Dell is adding an alternative configuration to its block and file capable PowerVault NX1950 to act as a SAN gateway, connecting directly to existing DELL/EMC CX systems. The new system would support Dell's largest, 480 drive CX array, providing customers with far more storage than today's 45 drive MD3000. Asthana said the unit should be rolling out sometime this summer.

While the new push looks like a grab at NetApp, Asthana says it simply isn't so.

"We don't paint a target on any company and say 'that's what we are after,'" Asthana said.

Oh, Praveen. You're too much. ®

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