IBM enhances entry-level storage products

IBM offers SMBs features previously only available on high-priced models sold to large enterprises

IBM is adding features and capacity to its entry-level disk storage array products for small-to-medium sized businesses (SMB) to match that of more expensive enterprise-level systems.

An industry analyst says IBM, along with its competitors, is offering improved storage capability, easier-to-use management software and lower prices to smaller businesses that need more storage but may not be as technology savvy larger companies.

IBM Tuesday is introducing the DS3000 series disk array line to replace the DS300 and DS400 models. The new series comes in two models, the DS3200 (starting list price $4,495) and the DS3400 ($6,495).

The DS3200 uses the small computer system interface (SCSI) connectivity standard, moves data at up to 3Gbps and has a maximum of 14.4TB (terabytes) of storage capacity on its 12 disk drives.

The DS3400 uses the Fibre Channel connectivity standard and moves data at up to 4Gbps. It also has 14.4TB of storage capacity on 12 disk drives. Both models are designed to work in IBM System x servers and some other server brands.

Both run IBM's Storage Manager software, which allows customers to set up the devices on their networks in six easy steps.

"And the first step is, 'Take it out of the box,'" said Alex Yost, director of product management for IBM System x. "It's really easy. Some folks get these up and running in less than an hour."

Set up and ongoing management of storage arrays is important for small-to-medium sized businesses who have growing storage needs, but perhaps not the inhouse expertise to know how to operate the equipment, said Dianne McAdam, a storage industry analyst at The Clipper Group.

IBM and other storage vendors, such as EMC or Hewlett-Packard, are now offering for the SMB market features that were previously only available on high-priced models sold to larger enterprises, McAdam said.

"The (storage arrays) are getting very advanced and sophisticated but at the same time they are getting easier to use because they have this nice interface. With a couple of mouse clicks, you can create a copy of a storage volume. Boom, you're done," she said.

The pricing could motivate SMBs to replace outdated storage appliances.

"Some of these smaller customers have older equipment, they don't want to move off of it because at least it's working," McAdam said. "The way you can move them to the newer stuff, which is faster, better and cheaper, is to provide these management interfaces that are just so darn easy to use."

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