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The OEM/reseller relationship with EMC has been a lucrative one for both Dell and EMC, but there have been signs that the relationship isn’t what it used to be. Case in point: Dell’s announcement today of homegrown data management solutions, which seems to signal that the co-opetive relationship is leaning a lot more towards competition than cooperation.

Dell has been spreading its wings with storage (EqualLogic), the data center and services (Perot), but this latest move seems a lot more like the Cisco/HP declaration of war than business as usual.

Dell has been pushing its EqualLogic iSCSI SAN arrays and PowerVault (low-end NAS) lines, apparently at the expense of the Dell/EMC CLARiiON boxes. While sales of both of its own lines have been growing, EMC’s contributions have been dropping. EMC head Joe Tucci acknowledged the change in the relationship from reseller to OEM several months ago. Now Dell is moving into EMC’s home turf, the data management space.

On Wednesday Dell announced ‘Intelligent Data Management’ solutions to address what it calls three critical storage technology areas: object storage allows the attachment of metadata, which is additional identifying information, to a file; deduplication eliminates common data at file, block and sub-block levels reducing the total capacity required to store and protect data; and unified storage promises an integrated platform that simplifies data management, offers built-in tiering and deduplication across multiple data types, such as block or file, and various storage protocols. While EMC figures prominently in two of the three segments, it would appear that Dell is looking for a much bigger slice of the data management pie.

In a prepared statement, EMC’s Jeffrey Casale, Senior Vice President for Channels and OEMs says EMC and Dell have forged one of the most successful relationships ever in the IT industry. “Co-branded versions of our leading Data Domain deduplication and Celerra unified storage technologies are the latest expansion of a relationship that began in 2001 and reflect our continued commitment to helping our mutual customers get the most value from their information in the most cost-effective manner.”

Brett Roscoe, senior manager, and the head of Dell’s data management portfolio, tells [ci] Channel Insider there are a number of technical and customer issues driving this announcement.

“The management cost of data is far outstripping the buying costs of capacity.” He adds that most customers are buying storage for data that is active and hot, but aren’t always getting what they’re looking for, and all data should not be treated the same. Throw in complexity and customers are looking for help.

That’s why Dell is getting more involved in the content management space, says Roscoe. “This is another area we’ve decided to invest in. To grow, you’re going to have to invest.”

Designed to access, store and distribute billions of files or other digital content, from archiving to the cloud, the Dell DX Object Storage Solution uses a simple, self-managing, future-proof and cost-effective peer-scaling architecture. According to the company it will reduce management by up to 50 percent, scale up to petabytes and ‘avoid the cost and complexity of forklift upgrades’.

As part of its efforts to build an ISV ecosystem for this platform, Dell is launching a solution development kit (SDK) for its partners that includes EMC and Symantec. Over the next few months it plans to release DX Object Storage solutions for healthcare, file and email archiving, eDiscovery and content management.

On the deduplication front, Dell is announcing new offerings, including three that are based on EMC’s Data Domain Series, the Dell|EMC DD140, DD610 and DD630, backup-to-disk solutions with integrated deduplication. Recent enhancements to the PowerVault DL2100 are being included in the announcement, as well as something for EqualLogic PS customers.

EMC also plays a critical role in the unified storage announcement, the Dell|EMC NS Series, which consists of the NS-120, NS-480 and NS-960. This family will enable customers: to cut unnecessary costs associated with multiple storage systems, duplicate data and over provisioning; to achieve 99.999 percent availability and future-proof connectivity through UltraFlex I/O modules and; save time managing storage by streamlining operations with Automated Volume Management and increase storage efficiency in VMware environments with the Celerra plug-in for VMware.

Dell also announced the PowerVault NX3100 a dedicated NAS solution to handle multiple data types (block and file) in a single system with up to 24TB internally and up to 384TB externally.

The Dell DX Object Storage Platform is expected in the second quarter of this year, with the SDK to be available in April. Both the Dell|EMC DD Series models and the Dell PowerVault DL2100 Powered by Symantec Backup Exec 2010 and CommVault Simpana 8 are available now. The Dell |EMC NS-120, NS-480 and Dell PowerVault NX3100 are planned for April. The NS960 is planned for May.

While Dell spans the entire customer spectrum, Roscoe says the sweet spot is the midmarket, and “each of these products has been designed to hit the sweet spot.” For the object storage platform, the company wants to hit a broad set of both vertical and horizontal customers, he adds.

He thinks it’s good news for the channel, that the products were developed with the channel in mind. “As we develop products, we’re thinking of how can the channel add value? We want to grow the channel business here at Dell.”