Dell rolls out NT SAN strategy
By Zachary Shess
As the din of storage area network (SAN) ann-ouncements grows louder, Dell Computer recently unveiled its own Windows NT-based SAN, singing the familiar praises of storage consolidation, faster backups, and lower price points.
After introducing its PowerEdge NT server and PowerVault storage subsystem last year, Dell rounded out its SAN product line recently by announcing a variety of Fibre Channel connectivity devices and a storage management suite co-developed with Microsoft.
The OpenManage Storage Consolidation software enables four PowerEdge servers to share external storage with one PowerVault 650F array, which Dell officials maintain is key in keeping orderly traffic patterns across the SAN. The other crucial SAN-enabler introduced was the redundant, eight-port PowerVault 50F Fibre Channel switch ($1,350 per port), which is based on Brocade`s Silk-Worm switches and supports four Dell servers. The company also introduced the PowerVault 35F Fibre Channel Multiport Bridge, based on Crossroads Sys-tems` 4200 router, and the PowerVault Optical host bus adapter (HBA), which is based on Qlogic`s QLA2100.
While other vendors` SAN strategies include solutions for a room full of servers, and data access and file sharing across heterogeneous storage devices, Dell officials make no apologies for offering a scaled-down Windows NT SAN solution. They contend that data centers are not the only places needing SANs. For example, Dell points to the growing user need to lowerback-up/restore times without burdening the network. Using the 35F Fibre Channel bridge with the existing PowerVault 130T DLT tape library shortens backup times by as much as 75%, officials claim.
"A lot of people are talking about SANs as a sort of nirvana," says Bruce Kornfeld, storage marketing manager in Dell`s enterprise systems group. "We`re focused on NT, and didn`t try to do everything. We wanted to break it down into manageable chunks and prove that SANs are not in the future--they`re shipping today."
"Dell`s not trying to be everything to everybody," says Anders Lofgren, senior analyst with Giga Information Group in Cambridge, MA. "First, they want to be able to address their own NT platforms, and then perhaps go after other vendors` NT platforms and then the UNIX world. I think they`re making the right moves."
According to David Hill, senior analyst with the Aberdeen Group research firm, in Boston, Dell`s stable of SAN partners is one of its biggest assets in making headway in the SAN market. Dell`s partners include Brocade Communications, Clariion, Computer Associates, Legato, Microsoft, Qlogic, StorageTek, Tivoli, and Veritas.
"One of the keys with SANs is interoperability, and Dell is addressing this," says Hill. "They`re also good at working with lots of partners, which is an effective tool in being able to sell in this marketplace."
Next month, Dell will expand its technical consulting services to support the SAN configurations. Enhanced services will include storage planning, consolidation, performance tuning, and backup and recovery.
A SAN with two PowerEdge 6350 servers, a PowerVault 650F, PowerVault 130T, two switches, a bridge, and HBAs will cost approximately $142,000. Individual prices for the 35F bridge and the HBA start at $5,000 and $1,479, respectively.