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SMBs in the spotlight

A raft of new products aimed at small to medium-sized businesses has hit the streets in the past couple of months. Here's a snapshot of who's doing what.

When it comes to storage, the little company is suddenly getting a lot of respect.

Perhaps that's because industry analysts are saying that the small to medium-sized business (SMB) market is emerging as a rapidly growing segment of the storage market. Framingham, Mass.-based research company International Data Corp. recently reported that sales of disk storage systems grew by 5% overall, to $5 billion, compared with $4.7 billion a year earlier and noted that SMBs are the new crowd boosting this figure.

"It's the fastest growing market segment out there," said Randy Kerns, a senior partner with Evaluator Group in Greenwood Village, Colo.

It's no surprise then to see a spate of new storage products aimed at this sector. Big vendors in particular are starting to pay attention to this market and are finding new channels into these companies through acquisitions and partnerships.

The latest example, this week, is EMC Corp.'s acquisition of Dantz Development Corp., a provider of backup software for small to medium-sized companies. Arun Taneja, founder and analyst of the Taneja Group, said the acquisition was significant because it demonstrated a real commitment by EMC to this sector of the market. "Most vendors are stripping out functionality from enterprise products to lower the price, but smaller businesses need this functionality, too," he said. Taneja advised users to look closely at how products being pitched for small businesses have been designed and whether they were architected from the ground up for a smaller company.

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Here's a snapshot of products, services and acquisitions that are focused on the small to medium-size business market.

StorEdge 6290, Sun Microsystems Inc. Sun is hoping that its recently announced 6920 array, which combines intelligent networking technology with modularity, will appeal to the SMB market. "Instead of buying a big, monolithic box ahead of time, companies can add more and more as needed," Foskett said. For the SMB market, the idea of not having to invest in an expensive storage box upfront is an appealing one.

Clariion AX100, NetWin 100, EMC Corp. EMC launched one of its smallest, cheapest storage arrays this spring, aimed squarely at the SMB market. The Clariion AX100 brings components such as consolidation, automation and advanced data protection to those who could not previously afford it, the company claims. The AX100 is sold through Dell and EMC's VARs and authorized distributors instead of through its direct sales force that targets the enterprise market. It also works with NetWin110, EMC's entry-level NAS package. "It's easy to set up and configure by somebody who is not deeply technical," said Peter Gerr, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.

Data Protection Server, Virtual Server, Microsoft Data Protection Server (DPS) is a low-cost, disk-based backup and recovery appliance that is designed to simplify and reduce the backup and recovery process. "It allows companies to deploy a continuous backup solution that fits in with Windows and is simple enough to use such that even individual users can restore data by themselves," Kerns said. This emphasis on self-service should appeal to the SMB market, which lacks the administrative resources of larger companies, he said.

Microsoft also announced that Virtual Server, which carves a server up into smaller, 'virtual' servers capable of running multiple operating systems, would finally become available. Stephen Foskett, director of strategy services at GlassHouse Technologies, a storage research and consulting company in Framingham, Mass., finds this significant to the SMB market for a couple of reasons. "One problem facing the adoption of enterprise storage for SMBs is the cost of it," he said. "If you're using Virtual Server, you can buy a single bigger server and create dozens of virtual servers sitting on it. You wouldn't have all the costs associated with getting multiple servers onto a SAN," he said. "It's like the blade server concept, except a little more flexible."

MDS 9216i, Cisco Systems The Cisco MDS 9216i fabric switch is equipped with 14 Fibre Channel ports (2Gbps) along with two Gigabit Ethernet ports, which can be configured to support either Fibre Channel over Internet Protocol (FCIP) or Internet Small Computer Systems Interface (iSCSI). Foskett likes this for the SMB market because it lets them experiment with iSCSI for a relatively small investment. "It's interesting because smaller companies don't have the ability to buy an iSCSI router to play with, so this is a way to get iSCSI in the door," he said. It should help SMBs create the kind of tiered storage more common in the enterprise. "Now, Fibre Channel can be used for enterprise class storage and all the other boxes can use the Ethernet ports ... It leverages the expensive purchase of SAN storage by sharing it with less critical applications, because they'll be using iSCSI."

ArchiveStore/EM, Connected Corp. Known for its hosted desktop and laptop backup products, Framingham-based Connected, acquired by Iron Mountain this week, has extended its reach with ArchiveStore/EM, an e-mail archiving service that aligns with its backup products. "It can help a small to midsize business get a handle on the explosion in storage requirements for e-mail volume," Gerr said. The product is also set up for regulatory compliance.

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Adaptec's Acquisition of Snap Appliance Snap Appliance, a vendor of entry-level NAS products with a sturdy distribution channel, was acquired by Adaptec this summer in an attempt to reach the SMB market. According to Gerr, Adaptec bought Snap for its product line and distribution channel. "It's a good example of how large vendors approach that market," he said.

Emulex/Brocade partnership The two vendors announced that they would expand a multi-year strategic partnership to simplify the deployment of SANs in the SMB market. For example, they will co-develop a multi-vendor SAN management wizard, which will integrate the installation and management of both Emulex HBAs and Brocade SilkWorm switches into a single, easy-to-use interface.

MSA 100, StorageWorks NAS 1200s/1500s, Hewlett Packard Co. HP's StorageWorks NAS 2000s and 1200 systems have the ability to consolidate Exchange Server 2003 data stores on Windows Storage Server 2003-based NAS systems, allowing customers to consolidate file print and Exchange servers and cut storage needs. The ability to make storage work harder is particularly appealing to the resource-frugal SMB market. HP also announced the StorageWorks MSA1500, which will support either SCSI or serial ATA disk enclosure behind a single controller shelf, making it easier to implement both technologies simply and cost effectively.

TotalStorage DS3000, IBM Corp. This product is an iSCSI-based storage array with a price point and technological functionality clearly aimed at the low end of market. It also announced a Fibre Channel version, the DS400.

Editor's note: Have any questions about the SMB market but aren't sure where to turn? Make sure to ask your peers and our experts in the new IT Knowledge Exchange. Check it out today!

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