Ours is an industry of partnerships, alliances and other combinations between various players.
Some work out well, some don't -- but there seems to be a grudging consensus that the Dell/EMC relationship has done a good job of re-shaping the dynamics of not only both companies, but the industry itself.
Hopefully, you've seen some of the press material on our re-upping of the overall relationship.
But, as always, there's only so much you can get from a press release, right?
The Theory Of The Deal
If you've spent any time in the storage biz, you probably realize that the server vendors sell more storage than they have any right to.
It is rarely is it the case that a server vendor can offer you a better storage product, or better service, or better functionality than what a storage specialist can do.
What server vendors do have in their favor is a very convenient channel -- the best time to sell storage is right alongside the server decision. As an example, neither HP nor IBM do much "off base" -- almost all of their storage gets sold right alongside their own servers.
This is great when server sales are booming. But, as some noted with the most recent IDC numbers, when server numbers are down, so are storage sales for these vendors.
In smaller environments, this effect is very pronounced. There's a certain irresistable convenience in one-stop-shopping, no matter how much we storage specialists make our case. In larger environments, though, there's enough at stake that server and storage will be considered separately.
This "server vendor storage preference" has been a fundamental characteristic of the storage market ever since I've been a part of it. And it's a matter of strategic concern to vendors like EMC, NetApp and HDS -- the storage specialists.
HDS has HP (and Sun, sort of), NetApp has IBM and few others, EMC has Dell as the big one. Interestingly enough, Dell appears to do a sizable amount of storage business "off base" with EMC products -- outside the context of a specific server transaction.
The primary products -- up to now -- have been the CLARiiON family. The press release mentions a number of 60,000 "solutions" -- I take that to be individual arrays sold. What many aren't aware of is that Dell can resell virtually the entire EMC product line -- DMX, Centera, Documentum, RSA, Avamar, Networker et. al. -- in certain circumstances. And, of course, gobs of VMware.
Even nifty color-coordinated portable drives ...
What I think is good is that Dell doesn't try and hide where the EMC stuff comes from -- they leverage our brand and our capabilities very well. We're not just their storage OEM, we're their information infrastructure specialist.
Everyone Does What They're Good At
I think EMC is very good at storage and everything that goes with it: analysis, implementation, backup, replication, archiving, etc. etc. etc. I think Dell is very good at understanding their market requirements, efficient distribution, and keeping things relatively simple.
We've also done a boatload of solutioneering work with Dell in areas such as VMware, data warehouse, Oracle and Microsoft environments. The goal of this work is shortening "time to value" for our mutual customers. For some strange reason, most of this great technical content is locked away on Powerlink, but if you've seen it, it's not just some pretty powerpoints we're talking about.
And, if you look at the most recent IDC numbers, it seems to be working well for both parties: both EMC and Dell (reselling EMC product) continue to do quite well and gain market share over alternative suppliers. Keep in mind that IDC counts only "as sold", so EMC has a healthy stake in Dell's growth as well.
Some Doubts Were Raised
Back when Dell acquired EqualLogic, there was rampant speculation in the industry that EMC and Dell would eventually part ways.
I thought that sort of speculation was utter hogwash at the time for good reason.
First, there's a lot of revenue at stake for both companies. Nobody likes to walk away from a successful, growing business with many thousands of joint customers, not even Michael Dell.
Second, the EQL iSCSI box has its fit in the marketplace, but doesn't play nearly as broadly as the EMC portfolio does. So Dell can't easily substitute one for the other.
Third, EMC also brings considerable expertise and ecosystem to the table. Partnered with Dell, customers get unfettered access to the industry leader in technology and solutions. That's an expensive investment to attempt to recreate.
Today's press release just reaffirms what's been happening all along -- both companies continue to invest more in working closer and closer together.
And, Of Course, The NX4
NetApp should be very concerned about this part of the deal.
All posturing aside, this is something serious that should be on their competitive radar screen. Keep in mind that -- according to IDC -- Dell already surpasses NetApp in the external disk market, and EMC has been #1 in NAS for quite some time.
First, the NX4 is an unusally hot box. Using native SAS underpinnings (the AX4-5), it goes up square against the NetApp FAS2020, and can be shown to provide up to 41% better price/performance, as well as 24% lower TCO over a three year period. Side by side, it should be pretty clear which one is the better deal -- unless NetApp starts discounting like crazy.
The graphical version of the NetApp compare is from our product marketing folks.
Like other Celerras, it does the full unified storage thing: iSCSI, NAS and "real deal" FC that isn't emulated. You can grow it up to 60 drives, mixing and matching SATA and SAS drives in the same shelf, for example. I don't think any other vendor does shelf-level mix-and-match yet -- important in smaller configurations.
Note: Kostadis over at NetApp can't understand why I think native FC is a big deal. It's pretty simple -- just because some says they can emulate, say, a mainframe, doesn't mean it's a real mainframe. And just because a vendor says they can emulate FC SAN behavior doesn't mean it's a real FC SAN. Just ask anyone who's built a big SAN.
The NX4 also has the full range of advanced Celerra functionality. It's the little brother of a very big familty. I took the liberty of uploading the most recent deck on Celerra Replicator, just to give you a sense of what just one feature does on a Celerra. If you'd like a quick techie overview of the Celerra family, see here.
Make no mistake, the NX4 is no stripped-down starter array. It's a full-boat, real-deal, big-boy unified array platform starting at around $20k.
Now, take this extremely aggressive product from EMC, and put it in the hands of Dell. Dell can be incredibly effective in these market segments, as we've seen in the past.
And add in the fact that neither of us especially likes NetApp.
My prediction is that sparks will fly, to be sure.
I'm betting we'll see all sorts of aggressive competitive material from NetApp (and HP as well) as they realize what Dell is capable of doing to them now in this "sweet spot" of the storage market.