Dell Computer Corp. revealed yesterday that it's poised to enter the enterprise storage space. Though it won't butt heads with EMC, HDS, and IBM when it comes to enterprise storage involving mainframe data, it will soon offer a storage system for Windows NT and Unix comparable to that of any other vendor. Dell's presence in the market will likely bring enterprise storage prices down to commodity levels.
Dell is readying a storage area network (SAN) solution that can scale up to 16 terabytes of capacity, according to Michael Lambert, Dell's senior VP of enterprise systems. Before this, Dell's high-end storage capacity was 4 terabytes.
The new architecture includes four 4-terabyte storage systems attached via multiple fibre-channel switches to as many as 20 NT servers, which initially will come either from Dell or Compaq. Dell will sell a fully loaded PowerVault SAN for less than $1.3 million, as much as 20% lower than the cost of competing enterprise storage systems. The PowerVault SAN with NT servers will eventually support data from Sun Solaris servers and, later, other versions of Unix.
According to Lambert, Dell has had the network storage capability for a while, but wanted to make sure such high- end storage systems would fit its direct-sales model. After testing the four-server, 4-terabyte PowerVault solution with hundreds of customers, Lambert says the company is ready to make it generally available. "We made sure we didn't jump into the deep side of the pool and drown," he says. "Now the biggest thing we need is the software to understand it all." Dell will count on software partners for SAN management and other advanced storage features such as remote mirroring, says Lambert.