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Intel, EMC launch storage whitebox into SOHO market

Beth Pariseau, News Writer

Intel Corp. and EMC Corp. are combining forces on the Intel Entry Storage Server, a $500 small office / home office (SOHO) NAS appliance that will be rebranded by other storage vendors and Intel distributors.

The box is a desktop model that supports up to four SATA disk drives in capacities from 80 to 500 GB for a maximum capacity of 4 TB. The appliance is being launched in two flavors: a hardware-only version (Intel Entry Storage System SS4200-EHW) that integrators can customize with and one with integrated software (Intel Entry Storage System SS4200-E). The $500 price does not include disk drives.

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The SS4200-E version includes two EMC applications, including a new app called Lifeline that gives the box NAS functionality. The Intel box is the first product to ship with Lifeline. The other EMC contribution is its Retrospect low-end backup software.

Intel claims other storage vendors, including FalconStor, and iSCSI SAN vendors Open-E and Wasabi Systems, are also porting software to the boxes for rebranding as low-end offerings. No further details are available yet on when those products will surface or what they will look like.

EMC says the product has no relation to its enterprise storage, including systems for small and medium businesses (SMBs). EMC characterizes the Intel box as a product for "prosumers" – combination professionalsconsumers. It will compete with products such as Buffalo Technology's TeraStation that are a step up from external hard drives.

But at least one analyst thinks the appliance will find its way to SMBs. "People hear SOHO and immediately think 'prosumer,'" said Greg Schulz, founder and analyst with the StorageIO Group. "But that market contains plenty of small businesses, and this product could fit into remote offices at larger companies as well."

This announcement comes as enterprise vendors take another stab at reaching SMBs, mostly through iSCSI systems. There was a similar push last year with the launch of the EMC AX150, the Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) All-in-One (AiO) and Network Appliance Inc.'s StoreVault business unit and product line. However, the AX150 has fizzled, and its primary reseller, Dell, revealed plans to acquire iSCSI SAN vendor EqualLogic for $1.4 billion. That deal placed more scrutiny on EMC's position in the low end of the market and the fate of the Dell / EMC partnership. Meanwhile, NetApp recently released a smaller StoreVault and Hitachi Data Systems launched an iSCSI Simple Modular Storage system platform for SMBs last month. .

EMC is taking a different approach this time around when it comes to the low end by divorcing its hardware from its software and "getting into the [software] publishing business," according to Schulz. "EMC's not a household name in this market, but Retrospect and Intel are. EMC needs to get downmarket where Dell, HP and IBM are already known, and the best way is Intel, which has the best channel there is."

The fact that the product is a whitebox also holds the potential for further interesting twists, according to Schulz. "It wouldn't surprise me at some point to see this also show up with a Dell logo on it," he said.