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EMC gets serious about small-business storage

Company launches a new brand of hardware and software products aimed squarely at small and midsize businesses.

Long dominant in the enterprise data industry, EMC now has its sights set at the other end of the storage spectrum and is going after the storage market for small and midsize organizations.

The company on Monday launched EMC Insignia, a new brand of hardware and software products aimed squarely at small- and medium-size businesses.

At the heart of the Insignia lineup is the EMC Clariion AX100 storage disk array, with a capacity of between 750GB and 6TB. It is configured using inexpensive serial ATA drives and starts at $5,500. The array supports Windows, Linux, Solaris and NetWare.

Just last week, EMC celebrated the launch of the first petabyte storage system. But with Insignia, it is stressing the merits of basic storage.

"For this market, the storage needs to be customer installable and easy to manage, and our software is the key to that," said Pat Lee, senior product manager for EMC Insignia.

EMC aims to offer six software products under the Insignia line. The company hopes the most popular choice will be EMC's Storage Administrator for Exchange SMB Edition at a retail price of $1,995. Managing storage in a Microsoft Exchange environment can be a complex issue demanding specialist help, according to Lee, who claimed that this product will make it "much easier to deal with."

The other storage management product is EMC Visual SRM, which is available in two versions and costs upwards of $995. The basic product can manage up to 2TB, while the higher-grade version can manage up to 5TB.

For data protection, EMC Insignia is offering the Retrospect back-up and recovery software, which starts at $399, depending on the edition. For replication, the RepliStor will cost $995 per node for a version that covers two servers. RepliStor is a Windows-only product.

And for collaboration, there is EMC's eRoom, which is supposed to allow users to share data securely. The SMB edition starts at $995, has limited function over the full edition and supports a maximum of 10 users.

EMC claims a track record in the small and midsize business space through its acquisition of Dantz, the company that developed the Retrospect backup software. "Most of the people from Dantz are now in EMC Insignia," said Juliette Lepoutre, the director of the international channel at EMC Insignia. "We are not new to this."

The EMC Insignia managers are acutely aware of the dangers of being seen to compete with the retail channel, she added. "Yes, we will have our own Web site, where you can buy our products direct for us, but only because some of our customers will only want to deal direct," Lepoutre said. "But it will sell only at list price, so you will get it cheaper by going through our partners."

EMC is even considering the issue of packaging, as it strives to establish itself as a channel player.

"When have you seen an EMC product in a box, for sale off the shelf? Never, right? Well, now we are selling products packaged for retail," Lepoutre said.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.