Dell ditching Quantum storage systems

Summary:In an effort to build its storage market muscle, Dell Computer will begin phasing out Quantum systems in favor of its own products.

Dell Computer will phase out a lower-end Quantum storage system in favor of Dell-designed systems the company introduced Monday.

The company will begin selling the PowerVault 715N, 750N and 755N products and gradually phasing out the 701N and 705N, two designs actually from Quantum, said Brett McAnally, senior product manager for the company's storage line.

"We're extending the reach of Dell-engineered platforms," he said. As the company steers customers from the 701N and 705N to the 715N, the agreement with Quantum "will wind down over time."

Indeed, the Quantum models already have disappeared from Dell's storage site.

The move is the latest in a saga of divorces and marriages as the Round Rock, Texas, company has sought the best way to capitalize on the market for storage systems. Dell has been expanding from PC sales into higher-end products such as servers and storage systems, and while it's put tremendous pressure on Compaq Computer in the server market, its strategy in the storage market has been much more confused.

One of the problems for Dell has been that storage systems aren't made out of standard building blocks and don't have standardized software, a difference from areas such as PCs and low-end servers where Dell is more successful. In storage, a lot more research, development and testing are required.

Dell sells two kinds of storage devices--lower-end "network-attached storage" (NAS) systems that attach to ordinary computer networks and higher-end "storage area network" (SAN) products that reside on special-purpose networks.

Dell's foray into storage began in 1999 with a deal to sell NAS devices from leading supplier Network Appliance while building its own SAN storage systems.

However, Dell and NetApp parted ways in September 2000, with Dell deciding to stick to a lower-end NAS market segment by selling the Quantum systems.

But the company will re-enter the high-end NAS market, this time with the IP4700 "Chameleon" product from storage specialist EMC through a deal announced in October.

Also as part of that deal, Dell canceled its own SAN products, despite recent work to improve the product line, and now will sell EMC's products.

Eventually, though, Dell still believes storage systems will come to resemble the server and PC market, filled with interchangeable "commodity" parts, McAnally said.

Storage systems attached directly to servers are a commodity today, he said. "NAS is quickly approaching that model. SAN would be farther up the commiditization curve," McAnally said.

Dell's new products, aimed at smaller customers or at the branch offices of larger ones, are made of commodity parts.

The 715N, aimed at entry-level consumers, costs between $2,000 and $4,000 and can store as much as 400GB of data. The 750N and the rack-mountable 755N version cost between $8,700 and $30,000, has capacity up to 7 terabytes, and competes mostly against models from IBM, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard.

The new models all use a specially tailored version of Windows 2000, Dell said.

Dell began selling NAS systems of its own design in February.

Topics: Hardware

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