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Storage

Dell targets small companies with EMC box

The computer maker introduces a new storage device aimed at small businesses and built under its partnership with EMC.

Dell on Wednesday launched a new storage device aimed at small businesses and built under its partnership with EMC.

The networked-storage system, dubbed the Dell/EMC AX100, targets the low end of the market, with a starting price of about $5,000. Dell said it designed the machine to be easier to use and to cost less to install and maintain, specifically to appeal to small organizations.

The hardware maker said that the AX100 can be set up to provide between 480GB and 3TB of storage capacity and that it is armed with new software tools to ease implementation. The device can be turned on using as few as four steps once it is connected to a server, helping to ease customer concerns over potential technical hurdles, the company said. Dell sees such concerns as a continuing threat to storage sales to smaller customers.

The new machine marks Dell's latest effort to target small businesses, considered a growth market in the storage arena and many other IT sectors.

In April, Forrester Research predicted that 74 percent of small companies are planning to purchase new servers this year and that 65 percent plan to buy new storage gear. Last week, Dell introduced data protection software that was jointly developed with CommVault Systems and designed for small organizations.

On a conference call Wednesday with analysts and investors, Dell President Kevin Rollins highlighted the company's belief that the small-business sector represents a significant opportunity, specifically for storage area networking (SAN) products.

"Small and medium-sized customers told Dell that they would install SAN if the products were easy to use and cheap enough to afford," Rollins said. "We fully expect this product to change the industry by allowing greater numbers of customers to have access to SAN technology."

Rollins added that Dell worked more closely with EMC on the AX100 design than on any other product the two companies have collaborated on. Dell will manufacture the systems in its facilities in the United States, Ireland and Malaysia.

Rollins also called the 3-year-old partnership with EMC a "cornerstone" of Dell's storage efforts and noted that the two companies have extended their agreement until 2008. Dell's revenue in the storage market grew by 18 percent in 2003.

On Tuesday, EMC announced its version of the same product, the EMC Clariion AX100. It will sell for roughly $6,000.

Other features of the Dell/EMC AX100 include software for data snapshots, provisioning and array management, along with applications for failover automation and backup. The device also offers a number of so-called redundant features, such as dual controllers and mirrored cache, in order to provide faster data access and more reliable backup. The AX100 supports the Linux, Microsoft Windows and Novell NetWare operating systems.

Dell reported that the storage package will be available on June 7 for $4,999 for direct-attached configurations, and for $9,999 for SAN configurations.