Dell/Ocarina – Too Little, Too Late

On October 11, 2011, at Dell World, Dell announced a component to their DX6000G object based storage called an “SCN” or Storage Compression Node.  It is interesting that Dell would mention in their blog post that this is “Dell’s first Ocarina based solution…” What makes this interesting is the value proposition behind Ocarina was its ‘content aware’ deduplication, not necessarily compression.  That said, this blog post seems to be the ONLY information on Dell’s web site about the product and there is very little in the press about this product and the technology.

While it is nice to see that Dell, who has committed to their own storage technology, understanding that storage optimization is important, the reality is they are a little to late to the game.  I say this because the announcement that came from Dell around their 6000 is really bizarre.  First, the solution is an object based solution.  Didn't they learn anything from EMC?  The Centera is not gaining a lot of momentum these days, even if they had a lot of ISV partners.  In fact, it is loosing ground.  Object based storage was good before the whole 'Big Data' thing was the 'next big thing' but today, people need a big clustered file system, that is optimized, that can server not only unstructured based data, but also some structured data that allows you to find stuff quickly.  Also, the DX may be a good solution for data types that are of the media / entertainment only segment, but when it comes to running a business, it takes more than just this object based file structure to be successful.

To me, this solution is too little, too late.  Dell, in order to be a true competitor in the space that is highly scale-able, clustered file systems that are optimized, they need to advance their thinking.   This will be difficult for Dell.  First of all they are not known for technology advancement or integration.  Until they announced thier departure from EMC they didn't really have a major focus on storage and now with their acquisitions, the question is, what is their value prop.  Couple that with the fact that IBM has 1000's of patents in storage and Dell doesn't where does that leave the direction of Dell storage?

When you look at the fact that IBM has industry knowledge and studies that disk can't grow at the rate it did in the late 90's and keep costs low, you need optimization technology to help you maximize disk capacities.  Combine this with the fact that Dell doesn't invent anything but acquires it, and if we take a look at how long it took for Dell to deliver a "compression" product from their acquisition, it leads us to believe that there will be a long time before Dell is ready to be a formidable player in the storage business when it comes to delivering products or technology that move customers past the commodity infrastructure plays to the advanced solutions that deliver capacity at the right price.  If it took over a year for Dell to get the Ocarina stuff to the market in a technology that is really "old school" technology, what are we expecting for the future of Dell storage?

My opinion is Dell will always be the low cost supplier of commodity hardware to risk adverse small businesses.  Integrating next generation technology will not be their forte.

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About the Author

Steve Kenniston - The Storage Alchemist.