Dell/EqualLogic integration as easy as E, X, V

Dell has renamed EqualLogic's products, which now come in just three flavors, and updated its IP storage roadmap

Dell's digestion of EqualLogic has resulted in new product names and a pruning of the latter company's product range to just three products, down from the nine it offered as an independent entity.

Branding and product naming consultants seem not to have been consulted under the new regime, as the three products have been named the Dell EqualLogic:

  • PS5000E - packing up to 16 SATA drives
  • PS5000X - packing up to 16 SAS drives operating at up to 10,000 RPM
  • PS5000XV - packing up to 16 SAS drives operating at up to 15,000 RPM

The inclusion of 16 drives increases EqualLogic's drive count by two, but the new arrays are otherwise identical to their predecessors, boasting the same iSCSI interconnectivity, built-in virtualisation and management tools that made the company an acquisition target.

One thing that has changed is support: Dell now handles support for EqualLogic products. Existing customers whose support arrangements are due to expire will be migrated to Dell support contracts which, according to Dell's Justin Boyd, will be offered on the same terms and price as EqualLogic's previous contracts.

All EqualLogic Australia staff, meanwhile, have found a new home at Dell with former leader Chris Casey now carrying the title EqualLogic Business Development Manager.

Roadmap fails to excite

Overnight in the USA, Dell has also clarified it intends to position the EqualLogic product line against the new AX4-5 Dell plans to resell from EMC. Dell has a deal to resell all of EMC's midrange Clariion systems.

Brad Anderson, senior vice president and general manager in Dell's business product group, said Dell will sell the AX4-5 to organizations who use mostly Fibre Channel storage but want to "take the first iSCSI step" via AX4-5's multiprotocol options. EMC estimates that most of its AX4-5 customers as well as most new Clariion deployments going forward will be iSCSI-only, which would bring them into direct competition with EqualLogic arrays.

Forrester Research senior analyst said it's more likely the AX4-5 will be sold to Clariion customers looking for a remote office/branch office disk array or data replication target. "That's a good strategy for the short term, since Dell and EMC do a huge volume together right now-why rock the boat?" he said. "But long-term, I have to believe Dell will go in the direction of the IP they own."

EqualLogic customers have questioned how Dell plans to blend the EqualLogic IP with other Dell products, including the MD1000 and MD3000 entry-level iSCSI SANs. Dell execs left the roadmap a question mark for now. "We're going to be kicking off some fairly sizeable product development sessions over the next 30 to 90 days," Joseph said. "No decisions have been made yet."

"What I'd like to see is for Dell to come up with a comprehensive platform that will address a wide range of customer needs," Reichman said. He suggested that a "PS Lite" software module for the MD series would be a good avenue for Dell to explore. Reichman added that EqualLogic might take advantage of Dell's relationships with application vendors to add app-specific interfaces to its product, the way it already does with a snapshot module for Microsoft SQL Server.

Dell executives will hold a conference call with US-based channel partners tomorrow, but addressed the channel during the event. "EqualLogic's channel programs have been left clean, in place, and brought into Dell's value chain," said Dell Vice President of marketing John Joseph. "It's being pulled in, accepted, and scaled by Dell."

But analysts said it remains unclear how Dell will negotiate between direct sales and channel sales in competitive situations, and how it will use the channel to attach server sales to EqualLogic storage products. "I'm more curious to see how EqualLogic will align with Dell's server business," Clipper Group analyst David Reine said. "They're going to have to do something to get back $US1.4 billion."

Dell founder and chairman Michael Dell did not attend the event, staged simultaneously in the ISA and the UK, but appeared in a short pre-taped video presentation on the PS5000 series. EqualLogic CEO Don Bulens wasn't there either, although Anderson said Bulens is staying on as a consultant for at least three months. Bulens' role will be to help Dell develop its channel and customer retention strategies.

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