SOHO Storage Needs Grab Titans’ Attention

Say the words “home office” and “EMC”‘ in the same sentence and something just doesn’t seem right, does it? But the storage titan, along with some other well-known brethren in the industry, is targeting the small office-home office (SOHO) market with a vengeance, though each are navigating a different route to what they all hope will be a revenue Mecca.

EMC’s vessel is LifeLine OEM Software, which promises to help small home office users centralize, organize and secure digital files — anything from Excel payroll documents to family photos and everything in-between.

What’s unique is that while EMC is aiming at the SOHO user, it’s not a direct sell. Instead, the vendor’s working with SOHO device manufacturers/partners such as Intel, which just pushed out the Intel Entry Storage System SS4200-E this week featuring the Lifeline application.

According to an EMC spokesperson, the OEM partner model gives EMC “the broadest technology portfolio from which to create offerings for these markets.”

Iomega has also jumped on the Lifeline bandwagon with CEO Jonathan Huberman stating in a release that his company is partnering with EMC on a new line of Iomega-branded network storage products for the consumer and SMB market.

The LifeLine software is browser-based and managed through game consoles as well as desktops. It supports Windows and Macintosh and provides data protection capabilities including RAID and EMC’s Retrospect backup software. The application even takes in “greening” concerns as the built-in disk drive offers up a spin-down function.

But it’s not just all about preserving family memories and cherished video clips. The Lifeline product also offers advanced file sharing, data management and data protection features. For example, you can search inside file content using keywords, and there’s even a printer server.

EMC, however, isn’t alone in vying for what could be a lucrative low-end storage market. This past September, Dell debuted its MD3000i as a cost-effective alternative to Fibre Channel storage options. The device runs on iSCSI over an Ethernet network. In December Dell gobbled up iSCSI specialist EqualLogic as well as U.K.-based storage consultancy The Networked Storage Company (TNWSC).

Late last year IBM debuted a first entry-level storage product, The System Storage DS4200 Express, aimed at SMBs with fewer than 1,000 employees, and announced a partnership with Network Appliance to produce systems built on the partner’s unified and open network-attached storage and iSCSI/IP SAN products.

Online storage providers are also kicking down SMB doors these days, offering efficient, less IT-intensive alternatives to running network-attached options. As one analyst explained recently, “Online backup services are particularly attractive to the SMB market, as they meet some of their unique needs.”

The scrabble to grab big chunks of the SOHO storage pie won’t be dying down anytime soon, given that SOHOs continue to grow in numbers with nearly 35 million home office households up and operating in 2005 according to an IDC research report. No wonder EMC (and likely every other vendor in play) views it, and the consumer storage market, as “growth opportunities for the future.”

Adapted from

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