Dell Hopes to Bring SAN Sanity to SMBs

In a move it says will provide small and mid-sized businesses with a more economical approach to network-based storage, Dell today announced the Dell/EMC CX3-10.

The new entry-level storage area network (SAN) product, which will carry a Dell/EMC logo, is designed to provide data protection and availability for businesses with as few as 100 employees and as many as 2,500, said Praveen Asthana, Dell’s director of storage.

SMBs have similar storage requirements as larger enterprises, Asthana said. “Their storage needs are growing 100 percent a year, but their budgets are staying flat.”

For some small businesses, DAS is good enough, Asthana said. However, some SMBs are clearly growing beyond the limits of the one-server, one-storage-device nature of DAS. “We’re seeing a gap between the CX line and DAS,” Asthana said, and that’s where the CX3-10 fits in. (Last October, EMC began offering iSCSI and Fibre Channel support on its CX3-20, CX3-30, CX3-40 and CX3-80 UltraScale systems).

The CX3-10 supports both iSCSI and Fibre Channel hosts. This combination is significant because most SAN products don’t support both protocols, forcing businesses to buy separate Fibre Channel or iSCSI SAN products.

While offering both iSCSI and Fibre Channel provides greater storage flexibility, iSCSI is more directly tied to Dell’s strategy because iSCSI-based SANs offer advantages over traditional Fibre Channel SANs in terms of lower fabric, implementation and maintenance costs.

Dell/EMC CX3-10
The Dell/EMC CX3-10 supports both iSCSI and Fibre Channel.
The CX3-10 has a 60-drive capacity (although it can work with as few as five drives) and can mix both SATA and Fibre Channel drives. However, most SMBs will probably opt for the former at least initially. “They are continuing to invest in SATA drives.”

It also splits its eight ports evenly between iSCSI and Fibre Channel. In addition to cost, (a Fibre Channel switch can cost several thousand as opposed a few hundred dollars for a Ethernet switch for iSCSI SANs, Asthana said), “it’s hard to find someone with Fibre Channel skills, but easy to find someone with Ethernet skills. SMBs haven’t moved beyond Ethernet, so the cabling is there,” Asthana said. “Fibre Channel even sounds complicated.”

According to Dell, by using its build-to-order capabilities, you can custom-order SAN-ready Dell PowerEdge Servers with a broad range of Fibre Channel host bus adapter cards and iSCSI-ready network interface cards factory-installed and tested, eliminating several steps in SAN installation process. Asthana said Dell is seeing the same kind of success in storage as it saw in desktop PCs and servers.

The Dell/EMC CX3-10 is also built to simplify storage operations by bundling EMC’s Navisphere Task Bar software for failover and data management.

Pricing for the CX3-10 starts around $22,000, according to information provided by Dell.

To complement the CX3-10, Dell introduced two new tape libraries: the PowerVault TL 2000 and the PowerVault TL4000. The new arrays are designed help SMBs implemnent tape backup and archiving in their disaster-recovery planning.

By implementing the new SAN and tape libraries, small businesses can both consolidate and simplify their storage infrastructures, according to Dell.

Pricing for the PowerVault TL starts around $9,300, according to Dell.

Dan Muse is executive editor of’s Small Business Channel, EarthWeb’s Networking Channel and ServerWatch.

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