EMC midrange systems eat into Symmetrix sales

Its flagship system is targeted now at only the highest-performing applications

NEW ORLEANS -- EMC Corp. executives acknowledged this week that sales of the company's midrange storage systems are skyrocketing -- at the expense of revenue from EMC's high-end Symmetrix arrays, once the company's bread and butter.

Mark Lewis, EMC's chief development officer, said in an interview yesterday that the company has embraced the movement of users to midrange systems, which EMC continues to bolster with high-end functionality once reserved for Symmetrix, including data mirroring, snapshots and multipathing.

"We just want to be change embracers. At the end of the day, bring it on. Let it happen," he said. "The only risk you always have is sticking your head in the sand."

Joel Schwartz, general manager of EMC's Midrange Systems Division, said that while Symmetrix will remain a standard for high-resilient and high-throughput systems, he's untroubled by the user movement away from the line. "If you don't cannibalize yourself, someone else will," he said.

EMC reported in its most recent earnings that, for the fourth quarter in a row, its midrange Clariion line of storage arrays and related software saw more than a 40% revenue growth. The Symmetrix array line, by contrast, showed 5% revenue growth four quarters ago but a 3% loss in the first quarter of this year. EMC considers its Centera content-addressed storage array and Celerra network-attached storage device parts of its midrange line as well.

Users at EMC's Technology Summit here said midrange arrays are quickly taking on all but the highest-end applications in their businesses.

Paul Stonchus, data center manager at MidAmerica Bank in Westchester, Ill., said he believes that EMC's midrange and high-end arrays will merge over the next 10 years to become a single line based on the best of the technologies the two product lines offer.

"The disk form factor is the same. If they merge, then you only have one R&D cost that would be less," said Stonchus, whose bank has a mix of Symmetrix, Clariion and Centera arrays.

Michael Berthiaume, a systems analyst at American Power Conversion Corp. in West Kingston, R.I., said his company recently replaced two older Symmetrix 8530 arrays with one high-end DMX and one Clariion CX700 array, achieving what he called a "significant" return on investment.

The Clariion array, which can use either higher-end Fibre Channel disk drives or lower-cost Advanced Technology Attachment disks, is used by Berthiaume's shop for applications such as Lotus Notes, Oracle and Siebel. The DMX is used almost exclusively for other applications, he said.

Much of the changeover, EMC acknowledged, can be attributed to successful marketing by reseller partner Dell Inc.

In 2001, EMC signed its first five-year agreement with Dell to manufacture and sell its midrange systems. Since then, Dell's work has come to make up one-third of EMC's $500 million in annual Clariion sales. "They've added feature functionality and performance to make it what the Symmetrix was three or four years ago," said John Hegner, vice president of technology at Liberty Medical Supply Inc. in Port Saint Lucie, Fla.

Hegner manages over 50TB of storage based on Clariion storage. "Except for the highest feature functionality, I don't see a place for Symmetrix," he said.


Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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