Dell EMC Targets NetApp With New All-Flash SC Series Storage Arrays, Debuts 'Partner-First' Loyalty Program

Dell EMC is taking direct aim at NetApp with new all-flash versions of its midrange Compellent SC series storage products, and a new loyalty program one executive calls a storage market "game-changer."

The Round Rock, Texas, company Tuesday launched two new all-flash SC block storage arrays as part of a series of additions to its midrange portfolio, including all-inclusive software packages for the SC series, efficiency improvements to the Unity line and the "Future-Proof Storage Loyalty Program."

Sam Grocott, senior vice president of storage marketing at Dell EMC, said the day is coming when midmarket customers will broadly demand all-flash storage offerings, and the new loyalty program is a critical element of the strategy for the company's partners.

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"We need [partners] to understand how to position the Future Proof Storage Loyalty Program," Grocott said. "It is a game-changer. Typically we sit back and wait for a technology, or features, but we need them to understand how to lead with the Future-Proof Storage Loyalty Program. It's as important as a whiz-bang new feature. It allows them to compete more strongly, win more customers and provide value to end users."

The loyalty program gives customers a three-year, money-back guarantee; a storage efficiency guarantee; seamless data migrations; trade-in credits toward new Dell EMC storage products; credits toward storage controller upgrades; and a 10 percent allocation and one year of built-in Virtustream Storage Cloud on Unity all-flash products.

The loyalty program, Grocott said, was created based on feedback from Dell EMC partners.

"This is a partner-first program," Grocott said. "When they looked at how they compete in the marketplace, we did not have a program like this, so the excitement about how this is going to help them accelerate their velocity and wins in the marketplace is shared by the direct team and the partner team. It is clear that customers are looking for investment protection in that what they buy today protects them for what they need tomorrow."

The Dell EMC SC5020F and SC7020F are the first all-flash models in the SC line. The models are self-optimizing and come pre-loaded with all the software needed to operate them. Pricing for the 3U, Intel Xeon-powered appliances starts at about 50 cents per GB, and they're intended to fill a gap in the SC portfolio and take on all-flash storage powerhouse NetApp in the midmarket, Grocott said.

"NetApp has an a la carte model," Grocott said. "Depending on what you want to get out of the system from a packaging standpoint, it's a bit of a nickel-and-dime approach. We're including all of that value in the price point."

The SC All-Flash products have a technical advantage, too, Grocott said, in that multiple arrays can be clustered together. "One of the big value propositions of the SC series, whether it's hybrid or all-flash, is the ability to federate or cluster together multiple arrays into a single system," he said. "Comparing a single SC all-flash to a single NetApp all-flash, it's going to be very comparable in terms of performance, capacity, features, function. When you factor in federation, the ability to scale out an SC environment to 10 arrays in a single federated cluster, that's where you get the benefit of aggregated performance and capacity."

A single SC all-flash array, Dell EMC's Grocott said, can scale from 400,000 IOPs and up to 3 PB of capacity to 4 million IOPs in a 10-node system, and 30 PB of capacity.

Still, Dell EMC has to contend with the fact that its all-flash efforts have focused on the high end of the market with its VMAX, XtremIO and Isilon lines while leaving the midrange open for competitors like NetApp.

Dell EMC estimates that midrange storage represents a $14 billion market and that it's growing at about 6 percent annually, Grocott said, adding that a wide swath of Dell EMC partners are equipped to attack that market, especially when using the new loyalty program as a weapon.

The SC All-Flash line are "Category A" products within Dell EMC's partner program. Including base rebates and new business incentives, Category A products can earn partners rebates of nearly 20 percent.

Michael Tanenhaus, CEO of Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md., solution provider that works with Dell EMC, said the loyalty program will help Dell EMC and its partners differentiate the SC All-Flash line.

"They want to make it attractive and differentiated," Tanenhaus said. "They're making sure they make those comparisons work. They're making it attractive and getting it on the scoreboard so people can see it. It's Dell EMC reiterating its commitment that nobody is left behind. EMC has always had the view that the whole world is going to all-flash. With that belief being strongly felt, they want to create a pathway from the platform customers have today to the all-flash world. The real sizzle comes from the programs around it. The trade-up programs are always good for a nice bump up in business."

Scott Winslow, president of Winslow Technology Group, a Waltham, Mass., solution provider with extensive experience with the Compellent line, said adding all-flash to the portfolio presents partners with a huge opportunity.

"We're big believers in the Compellent architecture. We've had customers move data centers during the middle of the day nondisruptively," Winslow said. "Compellent is designed for persistence, not obsolescence. It's an architecture that we think is the best in the industry in the midrange space. Adding all-flash, I think it only gives us more opportunity to win business. It allows our customers to modernize their infrastructure with an all-flash play. We've got a big Compellent base, now it's going to allow customers to modernize their infrastructure, get faster and more reliable."

Dell EMC also said Tuesday that it is offering free software upgrades for Unity customers, including inline data deduplication, synchronous file replication and the ability to perform online "data-in-place" storage controller upgrades.

The Unity upgrades and new SC All-Flash models are designed to position Dell EMC for growth in midrange market as all-flash takes hold in that segment, Grocott said.

"The adoption of flash in the high end has taken off like a rocket ship," Grocott said. "The midrange is now starting that shift as well. It's only a matter of time, whether it's three years from now or five years from now, where it's all-flash all the time, and that's started in the midrange as well. Customers are expecting an all-flash experience going forward."

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