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New EMC unified storage system targets NetApp

The EMC Celerra NX4 could attract new SMB customers, but its low price point might hamper the partner play.

EMC on Tuesday released a new entry-level unified storage system aimed at helping channel partners reach new customers and compete with NetApp in small businesses.

The EMC Celerra NX4 unified storage system targets businesses that want to consolidate distributed file servers and storage onto one platform. It supports SATA and SAS disk drives and offers network attached storage (NAS), iSCSI and optional Fibre Channel connections, as well as 32 terabytes of IP storage (or 60 terabytes of raw storage).

"It is a new area that we haven't been able to effectively address in the past," said Jack Kaiser, vice president of sales and marketing for International Computerware, an EMC partner in Marlborough, Mass. "It's pretty robust. It's not really low-end, but it's lower-end than [where EMC usually plays]."

At a list price of $20,375, the NX4 is about $12,000 cheaper than EMC's previous entry-level unified storage system, the Celerra NS20. The NS20 offered 50% more storage and is more scaleable than the NX4, with its eight 4 Gbps Fibre Channel connections compared to the NX4's four.

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"It is not a replacement for the NS20," said Brad Bunce, director of Celerra product marketing. "It is a new option, especially for the channel. … This product tackles a new segment of the market."

But with its low price, the NX4 may not present enough partner opportunity, said Mike Willard, co-founder and principal for Soccour Solutions, a Dallas-based EMC partner.

"It's really a borderline volume play, and you need to move a lot of them to be profitable," Willard said. "There's just not a lot of value-add with the below-20K solution sell."

The NetApp FAS 2020A is the main competitor to the EMC Celerra NX4, Bunce said. EMC also faces some competition from Hewlett-Packard and IBM, but neither of those vendors sells a true unified storage system for small businesses, Bunce said.

Another major player in storage, Dell, partners with EMC and will also sell the NX4. Although some customers like to buy direct from Dell when ordering joint EMC-Dell solutions, EMC will not bring in Dell when a customer is working with a channel partner, Bunce said.

The involvement of Dell, which has long had an uneasy relationship with the channel, may concern some EMC partners. But others think Dell is now more focused on selling the storage products it acquired when it bought EqualLogic last year.

"With Dell and EqualLogic's relationship, I still view solution providers like us as a better alternative than going to Dell," Kaiser said.

When EMC's internal sales teams deliver leads to EMC partners, they know the partner will sell only EMC products to the customer, he said.

"I don't think they have that feeling with Dell right now," he added.

Bunce described EMC's partnership with Dell as "very good," but Willard said he expects the relationship to weaken slightly.

"[Dell's] not going to be moving a lot of the Celerra product line," he said. "That's where the EqualLogic line comes into play."

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