Dell has announced the first of its EqualLogic storage arrays, the PS5000, and said: "We're not done yet."

Dell thinks simplifying SAN storage with easy-to-install, affordable and easy-to-manage iSCSI arrays is the way to go. It's announced a mid-range PS5000 EqualLogic array to do just that. Clearly an EqualLogic box, coming as it does just days after the EqualLogic acqisition completed, fills a quite large gap in Dell's storage product offering between the AX and CX Series. It also confirms the appeal of ISCSI which, the Clipper Group says, will exceed Fibre Channel in the number of connections in 2009.

The iSCSI PS5000 comes in three flavours: E for entry-level with the use of 1TB serial ATA (SATA) drives and 16TB capacity; X for a mid-level performance array with 10K rpm serial-attached-SCSI (SAS) drives; and XV for high-performance version with 15K SAS drives.

As with all EqualLogic products, the boxes are combined into a virtualised pool and additional PS5000s can be added to a maximum of 192TB. There is built-in replication and integration with Microsoft's VSS for data protection. The replication is accompanied by snapshot capability and both are application-aware to the extent of being able to create consistent snapshots and replicas and restores for things like SQL Server and other mainstream Microsoft applications.

The product has thin provisioning, which means disk utilisation can be kept high and and you don't have to pre-populate LUNs with disk capacity that isn't going to be used for months.

It looks like a good and solid product offering and fits in with Dell's storage line which now has four parts to it:

- MD3000i entry-level iSCSI array
- AX Series for entry-level Fibre Channel storage consolidation up to 60TB
- PS Series for SMB to enterprise range iSCSI SAN arrays
- CX Series for enterprise datacentre use.

The AX and CX use EMC technology. The implication of Dell's EMEA VP for services and solutions Simon Negus' statement that Dell isn't done yet, implies that the PS range could expand upwards or even downwards. Either way the EMC-sourced products are looking to have iSCSI alternatives to their predominantly Fibre Channel offerings.

Negus said that the PS5000 is fully integrated into Dell's storage product range which is impressive given the relatively short time available since the $1.4 bn EqualLogic acquisition was started. Dell is very well known for its execution expertise and this a good example of just how fast it can move at this level.

Negus said Dell views iSCSI as: "A simplification technology, a value technology," which implies that Fibre Channel SANs are what need simplifying. However, he said, the one SAN technology would not replace the other but would complement it.

Dell wants to offer a choice: FC for the FC installed base and iSCSI for the growing number of iSCSI customers. It's not a FC replacement strategy.

There is a bit of a mess in the storage product naming area, with three naming conventions, but it's logical to use the EqualLogic PS branding as it has a lot of traction with users. That's probably the same calculation as with the EMC-sourced AX and CX.

Dell is clearly growing its storage engineering capability and we can expect more to come, for example, solid state disks using flash technology, and multi-tiered PS Series arrays. The company is now a different animal. It has control of its own storage destiny with this iSCSI storage array hardware and software engineering capability.

It's a tender shoot, this transplanted EqualLogic engineering organisation, and will need sympathetic handling for Dell to get the best out of it. If Dell pulls this off then there is a serious new storage technology player on the market. Dell now represents a much more solid storage supplier to customers and, equally, much stronger competition to every other storage array vendor, such as 3PAR, HDS, HP, IBM, NetApp, Pillar and Sun to name just a few.