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The Only VMware-certified NAS in its Category: Why the Iomega StorCenter ix4-200r Will Resonate with Small Businesses

On April 16, 2009, the Iomega® StorCenter Pro ix4-200r was unveiled to the world and was subsequently greeted with an almost universal chorus of “oh’s” and “ah’s” by press and analysts alike. Now, mind you, this is the same crowd that normally first begins their write-ups with details about new features in the product and then promptly explain what is wrong with them or why they do not measure up. The coverage on this product announcement was definitely an exception to the rule. In scanning what has been written so far, one can hardly find any negative reviews on the ix4-200r with most observers and insiders feeling like Iomega hit it out of the park with its latest major foray into the small business networked storage space.

So why is there so much buzz around the ix4-200r? A rack-mountable storage device that supports iSCSI and NAS interfaces with 2 or 4 TB of storage capacity are features that will alone not get press and analysts excited. However it is the total hardware and software package that Iomega delivers in the ix4-200r that has them wowed and is certain to garner the attention of prospective customers. So here are the main reasons why DCIG expects the ix4-200r to resonate with small businesses:

  • Certified on VMware’s HCL. VMware® Ready Certification is a real coup for Iomega and gives the ix4-200r a leg up on its competitors as the only rackmount NAS in its price and storage capacity category with VMware Certification at launch . While nearly every article I have read on the web mentioned this certification, I would be remiss if I did not highlight it as well. What this means is that even small businesses that are contemplating bringing VMware into their environments can confidently use the ix4-200r in conjunction with the applications they host on a VMware platform.

This is not to suggest that VMware will not work with other similar-sized NAS and iSCSI appliances from other vendors – it probably will. The difference is that if and when a VMware hosted application starts to have problems, then who are you going to call for support? The first question that the support engineer almost inevitably asks is, “Is this configuration support by VMware?” If the answer is no, the support engineer likely will just politely explain the company does not support this configuration, wish you the best of luck in resolving the issue and hang up.

VMware certification goes to the heart as to why EMC gives Iomega such an advantage in the small business space. Like it or not, EMC is the largest shareholder of VMware and if they “encourage” VMware to make certification with the ix4-200r a priority, who is VMware to say no? This is just one example of the benefits that Iomega’s President, Jonathan Huberman, intimated was coming as a result of Iomega now being a part of EMC. While he did not explicitly say in an interview that I did with him back in February 2009 that the ix4-200r will be certified on VMware, he did say, “Iomega can now partner with EMC’s sister companies (such as VMware) in new and interesting ways.” So is it any real surprise that the ix4-200r is VMware certified out of the gate?  Again, a big advantage for Iomega over other providers of low end NAS and small business networked solutions.

  • EMC LifeLine software bundle. Other articles about the ix4-200r mention its support for Microsoft Windows Active Directory, video surveillance, advanced media support and new iSCSI support as well as including EMC Retrospect® Express backup software. But I think where they miss the point is that these features are part of the EMC LifeLine software bundle that Iomega ships with this and every NAS device going forward.

I do not mean to diminish the hardware features on the ix4-200r as the $1795 (2 TB) and $2795 (4 TB) price tags and storage capacity are what may attract many small business owners to it initially. But on a day-to-day basis, small businesses want appliances that are easy to use and manage and come from a trusted name in the business. Because EMC engineers working for Huberman’s division of EMC are ultimately responsible for managing and continuing to develop the LifeLine software, Iomega is free to focus on what it does best – innovating in the hardware and responding to the immediate and rapidly changing needs of small businesses. This leaves EMC free to continue to develop and enhance the LifeLine software. This combination of EMC engineering resources and Iomega’s small business acumen is shaping up to be a winning combination if the first release of the ix4-200r is any indication.

  • Retains a consumer focus. I deal mostly with business and technical issues in the analysis I write so when I see that then ix4-200r includes an iTunes server and supports Picture Transfer Protocol and Bluetooth updates from cell phones and Blackberry’s, there is a part of me that shakes my head in disbelief. But as I say that, multimedia and gadgets are now an integral part of how small businesses do business.

Most small businesses are not going to create 1 TB of Word documents and Excel spreadsheets in their life time, much less 2 or 4 TB which is what the ix4-200r already offers in total raw capacity. But it is reasonable to expect small businesses to store pictures of their products, create training videos for how to use their products or even set up video surveillance cameras on their premises. By including data protection and multimedia software with the ix4-200r, small businesses can take advantage of the excess storage capacity that the ix4-200r offers to store these files and then leverage the ix4-200r’s software to upload, manage and protect their media files.

“Oh’s” and “Ah’s” from press and analysts are always nice to receive but at the end of the day, the only praise that matters is the ones your customers make because if they don’t buy the ix4-200r, it is a loser. But off hand I don’t see Iomega having anything to worry about. The ix4-200r delivers nearly every feature that most small businesses will want from a storage appliance: ample capacity, reliable software, VMware certification out of the gate, a decent price and interoperability with current and future applications whether they are consumer or business oriented.  If fact, if this is any indication as to what Iomega will be delivering in the future for the small business space, it is well on its way to becoming the benchmark against which all other NAS providers in this space will be measured.

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