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IBM introduces low-end iSCSI storage system

As VARs look at a roster of choices to provide their customers with the best iSCSI storage system, IBM has thrown its hat into the ring with its first low-end iSCSI compatible disk array for SMB customers.

IBM Corp. today announced the first iSCSI storage system in its entry-level DS3000 series for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The company said it will target customers that have between 100 and 1,000 employees, and it wants channel partners to push sales of the new system.

The DS3300 is an iSCSI storage system that has a starting price of $4,500 and will be available Sept. 7. Two versions will be available for customers: the single- and dual-controller models. According to IBM, the dual model will come with extra features including host bus adapters (HBAs) and additional cables and will sell for $7,000.

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"I think this iSCSI solution is really going to help complement our portfolio," said Bob Dalton, IBM's worldwide marketing manager for midrange disk storage. "Customers have been telling us that they need an iSCSI solution to put in their IP SANs. We listened and we are able to deliver that to them," Dalton said.

Several of IBM's main competitors in the SMB storage market have already introduced iSCSI storage system disk arrays with iSCSI connectivity for their SMB customers, including HP with its All-in-One storage system, Network Appliance Inc. with the StoreVault S500 system and EMC with its AX150 and AX150i products.

"IBM is very careful not to release a product unless it has met all of our test and engineering standards," Dalton said.

IBM's late entrance into the low-end iSCSI storage system market has Andrew Reichman, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., wondering how IBM will develop its SMB strategy against its competitors.

"They are somewhat late to the iSCSI market. Every one of their competitors has a bigger presence in iSCSI today for the SMB space. To me the big question is how do they want to catch up," Reichman said. "Do they want to focus on expanding their relationship with NetApp and sell existing NetApp-proven products in the SMB iSCSI storage space, or do they want to build and sell a totally separate IBM SMB iSCSI storage line?"

Reichman also said software is the key to SMB storage, with buyers looking for easy-to-manage products with robust data protection and management features. This will be the challenge for the new DS3300 iSCSI storage system against its competitors.

One VAR that sells HP, EMC and IBM entry-level iSCSI storage system products said he already has customers who want to buy the disk array once it becomes available.

"IBM was a little bit late to the game, in some aspects, but they are putting a lot of money into the SMB space," said Sean Hobday, executive vice president of sales for Auburn, Wash.-based Zones Inc. "I and my account representatives have been meeting and talking to clients and we are pretty excited about the prospects of selling the product," Hobday said.

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