This week's product announcements from EMC Corp. are stirring reactions from EMC channel partners who say the company is finally shaping a strategy to more effectively deal with competition from Network Appliance Inc. in the midrange market.
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Partners also said EMC's efforts to ramp up green technology products, and the company's push to strengthen the product-certifications available through its Authorized Services Network (ASN) will have a positive impact on their sales.
The Celerra NS20 and NS40 disk arrays, which EMC plans to make available in August, compete directly with Network Appliance (NetApp) products in network attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) environments, according to Mike Strain, director of storage at Overland Park, Kan-based Alexander Open Systems.
Strain said he already has deals in the works with clients who are interested in the two products, which use both iSCSI and Fibre Channel connectivity. This flexibility allows both products to support a SAN or NAS on the same platform.
"Traditionally customers would have bought a Celerra with iSCSI connectivity for NAS connectivity. If customers needed SAN or Fibre Channel they would've had to buy a CLARiiON and a gateway," said Strain.
"Now EMC is combining the two, which allows you to combine CLARiiONN Fibre Channel block level storage with the ability to do NAS all in the same product. That's a huge innovation when competing against NetApp," said Strain.
Strain also said that the NS20 which will sell for approximately $34,000 and the NS40 at approximately $50,000 are competitively priced.
EMC's theme of promoting unified storage in its NAS products is validation that the company is turning up the heat as it competes in a go to market strategy with NetApp, said Stephanie Balaouras, analyst at Forrester Research Inc.
"NetApp has been promoting this functional convergence for quite some time, calling it unified storage," said Balaouras. "EMC has to answer this multiprotocol functional convergence and assure resellers it does not matter whether storage runs on Fibre Channel or IP while providing multiple access methods for block or file storage. I would say this is what small and medium businesses are looking for."
The two systems will level the playing field for EMC partners, according to Keith Norbie, director, storage division at Plymouth, Minn-based Nexus Information Systems.
"I like the announcement because it helps VARs in the market where NetApp and EqualLogic pose the biggest competitive threat to EMC. They have a lot of momentum and are posing a challenge to EMC in the VMware space as well," Norbie said.
"Many customers like an easy to install VMware certified system with thin provisioning based on an iSCSI system. Many VARs that cover the volume of deals among medium sized businesses are going to embrace this because, if you can make things easier to use, that helps out a lot, said Norbie.
Adding the new Celerra Startup Assistance software, which ramps up the system from power to production in 15 minutes, is an acknowledgement that EMC had to confront easy to use products from NetApp that the market embraced. But EMC can do the same, said Raphael Meyerowitz, storage practice manager at Presidio Networked Solutions.
"Today to implement a Celerra would probably take four to five hours to do the initial configuration, but with the NS20 and NS40 quick start feature it will take about 15 minutes," Meyerowitz said. "I think the reason EMC did this is because today NetApp implementations are very easy and very fast. Customers are going to be very happy with that," Meyerowitz said.
Green storage management technologies
Customers will also be happy that EMC is paying attention to other issues, such as the need to conserve power (and power costs) in data centers, Norbie said.
"Power is a big area where some customers still scratch their head. IT managers have a tough time sizing what kind of power they have, so I like the way that EMC is starting to structure some of their message toward dramatic reduction in power consumption," Norbie said.
Among the new "green," power-conserving products EMC announced this week is the new Symmetrix DMX - 4 series. The high-end storage units support both high speed Fibre Channel disk drives and low cost 750 Gigabyte SATA II disk drives. EMC estimates put energy consumption for the SATA drives at 33% below the Fibre Channel drives.
The Centera content addressable storage system comes with new Centera Generation 4 LP (Low Power) nodes that will provide customers with low power processors and chipsets as well as efficient power consumption, while also providing 50% more storage capacity per node using new 750 Gigabyte SATA disk drives, and the Celera NS20 and NS40 will also support the 750 Gigabyte SATA II disk drives, EMC said.
Authorized Services Network program and training
This week EMC also announced enhancements to its Authorized Services Network (ASN) program giving partners greater access to online training and broadening their ability to provide assessment and implementation services to customers.
On Tuesday, EMC launched two new ASN program categories: ASN Implement and ASN Support to help partners deliver a high level of service to the customer at the right price points for the value that they are adding.
According to Peter Koliopoulos, EMC's vice president, global channels marketing, partners are now going to be able to deliver more implementation services around installation as well as implementation.
"It's more than plugging in the machines now, it's bringing up certain software products as they come up in an initial implementation of a product set," said Koliopoulos.
Koliopoulos also said under the ASN support EMC partners can now offer first line support and maintenance services as they tap into EMC's technical and logistics services. By increasing an EMC partner's ability to expand their service offerings, Koliopoulos said, partners should win deals and bump up their profit margins.
"If partners have the ability to deliver assessment services and it's a chargeable assessment in some cases, and it results in a sale, then the sale and the margin and all of the other profitability elements we have build in the program, should actually reap rewards for partners," Koliopoulos said.
Norbie said he thinks EMC partners will evolve into more specialized EMC partners as they strengthen their training on EMC hardware and software.
"VAR partners have got to pick a focus and be good at it. That's what EMC wants as well, partners that have investments and focus in specific areas so that when they do get engaged they've got value add," Norbie said.
Let us know what you think about this story; email: Nicole Lewis, Senior News Writer