Dell makes room for small-business storage

Company introduces a lower-cost way to keep up with data growth without the need for IT expertise. Photo: Dell's new storage system

SAN FRANCISCO--Dell might be losing ground in PCs, but it's looking to take even further advantage of the exponential growth in digital data.

Dell is specifically targeting the small and medium business market with a new storage consolidation system, the PowerVault MD3000i. It's a storage area network (SAN) array based on an iSCSI standard, which works on a company's existing Ethernet network, and is a cheaper alternative to installing fiber networks. A fully configured system will cost about $13,000, according to Darren Thomas, vice president and general manager of Dell Storage.

Chief Executive Michael Dell and Senior Vice President Paul Bell were also on hand for the SMB customer Town Hall here, one of a series of events aimed at eliciting customer feedback.

For the first time ever, the amount of digital data generated will exceed digital storage capacity, Dell said. How did we get to this place? he asked. "We can blame storage vendors in the industry that haven't met the needs of small and medium businesses."

Storage is an area in which Dell is looking to grow. It is its smallest business, responsible for only 4 percent of its revenue in the most recent quarter. Dell is also looks to be making a play in the small-business category. In July, the company introduced Vostro, a separate line of PCs for businesses employing 1 to 25 people.

The PowerVault MD3000i, which supports up to 16 hosts, is Dell's fourth storage product introduced this year aimed at small businesses that lack full-time IT employees, but are generating more data than they know what to do with. It's an area Michael Dell calls "underserved." It's part of the company's stated strategy to make IT less daunting.