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VARs see SMB opportunities with IBM's new storage products

As vendor competition heats up in the storage SMB space, resellers like the new IBM products.

IBM channel partners are optimistic that a new line of storage products the company introduced this week will ramp up their business among small to medium size (SMB) customers.

On January 16th, IBM announced the DS3000 series of storage systems, which it described as affordable and easy to install.

"I've already been putting configurations together for these products, so we'll see how they match up to what the competitors have," said Eric Vonderhaar, a systems engineer at IBM reseller Mainline Information Systems, Tallahassee, Fl.

The boxes, which come with a standard set of applications that are easy to configure, are almost too easy to use, from the perspective of a value-added reseller (VAR), Vonderhaar said

"Even though we won't be getting as much service opportunities to manage it on a day to day basis, it provides us with a very good foot in the door," Vonderhaar said. "It's a good selling point for us to design it for them and then once it's up and running we can say hey you have this total cost of ownership where you don't need us to come by and manage it for you," Vonderhaar added.

Richard Taylor, national sales manager for ScImage, Inc. an IBM reseller and a systems integrator of enterprise imaging and information management solutions for healthcare clients, believes the products will help his company capture new business.

"The SMB market is going to be very well served by the DS3000 series of products. IBM has been very competitive in pricing and performance with their x series servers, but in the storage area they have not had that kind of entry level price to performance ratio that we've needed to make it an IBM installation. This is going to give us the ability to have that," Taylor said.

The DS3000 series which will be available Jan. 30, are 2U rackmount enclosures with 12 drive bays that support up to 48 SAS hard drives.

The two units in the series are the System Storage DS3200, which starts at $4,495 and comes with a 3Gbit/sec interface and the 4Gbit/sec DS3400 that starts at a list price of $6,495.

Both offer an entry-level single controller model and a dual controller model to help maintain data availability.

The DS3200 system is a direct-attached storage unit that supports clustering and provides 3Gbps SAS connection to the host.

The DS3400 system, can be either direct attached or used in a storage-area network (SAN) configuration for its 4 Gbps Fibre Channel connections. It also offers support for IBM System x and BladeCenter servers as well as select third party servers.

"The DS3200 is kind of a new product for IBM customers because there has never been a SAS storage device in the IBM product line. I'm interested to see how our customers respond to this product and where is it going to fit into their storage needs," Vonderhaar said.

Both systems support 12 SAS hard disk drives, with each edition delivering 3.6 TB of space; linking up to three EXP3000 enclosures yields more than 14.4 TB that allows the storage system to scale up to 48 hard disk drives.

Forrester Research, Inc. analyst Stephanie Balaouras said IBM's announcement is another indication that vendors are seeing revenue opportunities in the SMB market.

"What's interesting about the new products is that it further validates how much focus there is on the mid market for growth," Forrester Research, Inc. analyst Stephanie Balaouras observed.

Balaouras said Forrester defines the SMB mid market as having 1,000 employees or fewer and within that there's so much focus on that market segment because many firms in that category have not established a storage infrastructure.

Balaouras also said many of these companies are still relying on internal server capacity or maybe some direct attached storage, but they have some of the same requirements as larger enterprises.

"They don't have the same budget and they don't have the same skill set as larger enterprises, but their storage is growing at 30% to 50% a year and they have the same requirements for business continuity and availability," Balaouras said.

David Rose, president of IBM reseller Sunstar Company, Inc. Inglewood, Ca, predicts that the products will sell well.

"Even though IBM is coming a bit late to the SMB market compared with other vendors, these are good products that are easy to install. I think they will sell well," Rose said.

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