D-Link Canada sets sights on SMB storage market

D-Link Canada says its newly released 8-terabyte Storage Area Network (SAN) array will bring major storage capabilities to the SMB. And while it’s difficult to criticize the device’s technical merits, an IDC Canada analyst said the need for a powerful SAN array may not be widespread enough to warrant a purchase among smaller IT shops.

D-Link’s Canadian division said it based the new DSN-2100-10 SAN array on D-Link’s integrated iSCSI System-on-a-CHIP design found in the company’s DSN-3000 series of products. Jean-Paul McFarlane, product manager at D-Link Canada’s Oakville, Ont.-based headquarters, said that many smaller companies have what he called “storage islands” for their storage and back-up functions.

“They’ll have individual servers or individual computers that have their own storage,” he said. “Now part of the issue with that is how do you manage those users together and will you know if a hard drive goes down or a piece of your storage gets lost?”

With its new SAN array, McFarlane said the device can be easily implemented for supplementary, near-line or disaster recovery storage needs and help consolidate these capabilities across all users. Even with an aggressive retail price of roughly $8,500, McFarlane said he expects significant traction among the SMB market. In terms of pricing per-Gigabit, he said D-Link can go as low as $2 per Gigabit.

“Part of the idea here is to create a device that is affordable to these smaller businesses, because a lot of storage solutions in competing technologies like Fibre Channel can run organizations upwards of $50,000 to $150,000 for equipment,” McFarlane said. “The initial sticker price may be a little bit higher than some of the competition, such as an EqualLogic, EMC, or HP, but we’ve really tried to add the features that customers really want and not bloat the device with functions that small businesses may not use.”

Some of these features include the SAN’s ability to handle more than 80,000 input/outputs (I/O) per second, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, and 8TB of drive capacity. A lot of the features, McFarlane indicated, are significantly better than what the competition offers.

“Typically you’ll see two Gigabit ports, which even after combing them together will only give you a two Gigabit link for handling data,” he said. “Multiply that by four for us, so you have the high speed and you also have the fast link into the network.”

But for a product that is firmly aimed at the small IT shops, IDC Canada research analyst Philip Barnes wondered whether most companies would be overbuying for their needs. He said the issue around expanding data growth is being felt largely in the enterprise space, as opposed to the entry-level players.

“It’s starting to move downstream to the smaller organizations, but I wouldn’t say as a standard rule at this point that every SMB has either complete back-ups or robust disaster recovery plans,” Barnes said. “I would expect them to see some traction in the future. Now in terms of on the horizon, we are probably not talking about this happening in the next one or two quarters and rather about a longer term shift toward the adoption of network storage into businesses of all sizes.”

Barnes explained that the storage industry as a whole has been evolving from direct-attached storage toward the idea of SANs in recent years, and D-Link’s ability to leverage the iSCSI protocol for SAN will give it significant growth.

Another important feature, according to D-Link, is the SAN array’s integrated device management controller – which is built into the storage box and does not require any extra software. McFarlane said that adding interoperability with Windows, Linux and Mac OSX-based environments (through the iSCSI protocol) gives the device a competitive edge on the market.

Barnes agreed, saying that SMBs who don’t have a deep familiarity with technology will find the embedded management and interoperability functions to be extremely useful.

“Typically SMBs are going to be more focused on driving their business than they are to learn about new technologies that are in the pipeline,” he said. “So having everything integrated and simplifying the experience for the user is really crucial. Our research has shown that simplification is a big drive for not only smaller organizations, but also the larger ones.”

As for the future of D-Link’s plans in the SMB-focused SAN market, McFarlane said that the company is looking at bringing out a more modular device that can scale up to a maximum of 15TB. He said that companies that need more storage capabilities can buy the 15TB, pick up the expansion base and configure it together with DSN-2100 device.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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