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Dell, EMC mark a year's alliance

Dell Computer and storage giant EMC will celebrate the first anniversary of their partnership in storage with the release of a new low-cost system.

Dell Computer and storage giant EMC will celebrate the first anniversary of their alliance in storage with the release of a new low-cost storage system.

The CX200 is a new low-end storage system that will be marketed by both companies. Dell is expected to manufacture the system. The CX200, like the CX400, the higher-end CX600, and the midrange CX400, is a storage area network (SAN) device, which means it is attached to servers over a special-purpose high-speed Fibre Channel network.

A source close to the companies confirmed that the CX200 will be launched Monday. The event is timed for the Storage Networking World conference in Orlando, Fla.

EMC CEO Joe Tucci and Dell President Kevin Rollins will hold a Webcast at 12:30 p.m. PST on Monday to discuss the EMC-Dell relationship.

The two companies entered a marriage of convenience last year to shore up holes in their respective strategies. In the late 1990s, Dell made its own foray into storage area networking, but customers weren't impressed. The company subsequently began to wind down the operation last year.

By contrast, EMC found itself swarmed by competitors. In the computer spending frenzy of the late 1990s, EMC was king of the hill with its Symmetrix line of refrigerator-size machines that often cost well over $1 million.

Now, though, Symmetrix has ample competition from IBM, Sun Microsystems and Hitachi. Profit margins have also dropped as customers have found ways to get by with the minimum necessary hardware. In this budget-conscious market, EMC's Clariion line has been rising to prominence. By working with Dell, EMC is learning the art of low-cost manufacturing and computer design. Additionally, Dell is acting as one of EMC's sales channels for small- and medium-sized businesses.

In October, the two companies came out with the Clariion CX400, which has a top storage capacity of 4.4 terabytes. A 180GB version costs about $60,000 from Dell, including three years of service and support.

Although these sorts of "strategic relationships" often fizzle, industry executives and analysts have said that they will become increasingly common. IBM and Cisco Systems, for instance, are working together to design Cisco networking servers for IBM blade racks. Alliances are far less gut-wrenching and expensive than mergers. At the same time, if constructed properly, companies can gain expertise quickly.