EMC gets serious about SME storage

Will small firms be wooed by EMC's Insignia range, which offers a new badge, tweaked products and aggressive pricing?

Long dominant in the enterprise data centre, EMC now has its sights set at the other end of the storage spectrum and is going after the market for storage in small and medium-sized organisations.

On Monday the company will announce the launch of EMC Insignia, a new brand with special products aimed squarely at companies with an average turnover of between £700,000 and £15m per year.

At the heart of the Insignia line-up is the EMC Clariion AX100 storage array with a capacity of between 750GB and 6TB. It is configured using inexpensive serial ATA drives and will cost £3,160. The array comes with iSCSI or Fibre Channel and supports Windows, Linux, Solaris and NetWare.

Just last week, EMC was celebrating the launch of the first petabyte storage system, but with Insignia it is stressing the merits of basic storage.

"For this market, the storage needs to be customer installable and easy to manage and our software is the key to that," said Pat Lee, senior product manager for EMC Insignia.

EMC aims to offer six software products under the Insignia from launch, or soon after. The most expensive and, EMC will be hoping, most popular choice will be EMC's Storage Administrator for Exchange SMB Edition at a retail price of £1,375. Managing storage in a Microsoft Exchange environment can be a complex issue demanding specialist help, according to Lee, who claimed this product will make it "much easier to deal with". It is only available for the AX100.

The other storage management product is EMC Visual SRM which has been rebadged as an EMC Insignia product and is available in two versions, and costs upwards of £579. The basic product can manage up to 2TB, while the higher grade version can manage up to 5TB.

For data protection, EMC Insignia has the Retrospect back-up and recovery software costing between £229 and £831, depending on edition. For replication, the RepliStor will cost £579 per node for a version that covers two servers. RepliStor is a Windows-only product.

And for collaboration there is EMC's eRoom, which is supposed to allow users to share data securely. The SMB edition costs £579, has limited function over the full edition, and supports a maximum of ten users.

It may have the products ready to be successful in the SME market, but EMC also needs to have the right partners. The company has always been known as a direct sales company with one of the most competitive field sales forces in the business. Making the switch and becoming a major player through dealers and resellers will be a challenge,

EMC claims a track record in the SMB space through its acquisition of Dantz, the company that developed the Retrospect backup software. "Most of the people from Dantz are now in EMC Insignia and we are known by the VARs and resellers and dealers," said Juliette Lepoutre, the director of the international channel at EMC Insignia. "We are not new to this."

The EMC Insignia managers are acutely aware of the dangers of being seen to compete with the retail channel. "Yes, we will have our own Web site where you can buy our products direct for us, but only because some of our customers will only want to deal direct," said Lepoutre. "But it will sell only at list price so you will get it cheaper by going through our partners."

EMC has even considered the issue of packaging, as it strives to establish itself as a channel player.

"When have you seen an EMC product in a box, for sale of the shelf? Never, right? Well now we are selling products packaged for retail," said Lepoutre.