Dell has, as expected, launched a storage array designed to be cheap and simple, and targeted at the rapidly-growing small business sector.

The company unveiled the MD3000i at a posh launch party in both San Francisco and London. Dell CEO Michael Dell told members of the press and customers over a satellite video link that the SAN array uses the iSCSI protocol so customers can connect it to their existing Ethernet networks instead of more expensive Fibre Channel.

The move means that Dell will have to battle IBM and Hewlett-Packard in the rush to provide low-cost storage for the small and medium-sized business (SMB) sector. Both IBM and HP have launched low-end versions of their storage systems this year. Dell criticised the competition, saying the competing products were too complex for SMBs.

The head of Dell also took the opportunity to lambast current storage vendors for not meeting SMB storage needs, saying they only offered SMBs either a rudimentary storage solution (such as CDs) or an expensive “de-featured” product originally designed for large businesses.

"Research showed that fewer than 20 percent of SMBs have adequate storage," said Dell, "as many lack the budgets and specialised skills to invest in storage. The MD3000i is designed to be simple to manage, and will allow even small businesses to consolidate their servers through virtualisation," he said.

Dell pointed out that the SMB market (according to a recent VAR study) is expected to spend 10 percent more than last year, and the MD3000i should help SMB’s manage the "massive explosion of data."

The MD3000i is now available worldwide. In the UK, prices for a basic configuration start at £5,497 (or 8,084 euros). In the US, prices start at under $10,000 for an array supporting up to 16 host servers, room for expansion and backup and recovery software. The system uses either SAS or SATA hard disk drives to store up to 18TB of data on 45 drives.

Based on original reporting by Ben Ames, IDG news Service.