Dell and Compellent may be a great match because Compellent uses commodity hardware combined with specialized software to create their storage subsystem. If there’s any company out there that can take advantage of commodity hardware it’s probably Dell. (Of course Commodity hardware always loses in the end, but that’s another story).
Similarly, Dell’s EqualLogic iSCSI storage system uses commodity hardware to provide its iSCSI storage services. It doesn’t take a big leap of imagination to have one storage system that combines the functionality of EqualLogic’s iSCSI and Compellent’s FC storage capabilities. Of course there are others already doing this including Compellent themselves which have their own iSCSI support already built into their FC storage system.
Which way to integrate?
Does EqualLogic survive such a merger? I think so. It’s easy to imagine that Equal Logic may have the bigger market share today. If that’s so, the right thing might be to merge Compellent FC functionality into EqualLogic. If Compellent has the larger market, the correct approach is the opposite. The answer lies probably with a little of both. It seems easiest to add iSCSI functionality to a FC storage system than the converse but the FC to iSCSI approach may be the optimum path for Dell, because of the popularity of their EqualLogic storage.
What about NAS?
The only thing missing from this storage system is NAS. Of course the Compellent storage offers a NAS option through the use of a separate Windows Storage Server (WSS) front end. Dell’s EqualLogic does the much the same to offer NAS protocols for their iSCSI system. Neither of these are bad solutions but they are not a fully integrated NAS offering such as available from NetApp and others.
However, there is a little discussed part, the Dell-Exanet acquisition which happened earlier this year. Perhaps the right approach is to integrate Exanet with Compellent first and target this at the high end enterprise/HPC market place, keeping Equal Logic at the SMB end of the marketplace. It’s been a while since I have heard about Exanet, and nothing since the acquisition earlier this year. Does it make sense to backend a clustered NAS solution with FC storage – probably.
Much of this seems doable to me, but it all depends on taking the right moves once the purchase is closed. But if I look at where Dell is weakest (baring their OEM agreement with EMC), it’s in the highend storage space. Compellent probably didn’t have much of a foot print there as possible due to their limited distribution and support channel. A Dell acquisition could easily eliminate these problems and open up this space without having to do much other than start to marketing, selling and supporting Compellent.
In the end, a storage solution supporting clustered NAS, FC, and iSCSI that combined functionality equivalent to Exanet, Compellent and EqualLogic based on commodity hardware (ouch!) could make a formidable competitor to what’s out there today if done properly. Whether Dell could actually pull this off and in a timely manner even if they purchase Compellent, is another question.