With many analysts putting the figure for the data storage market in the billions over the next few years, it's no wonder top tech firms are both pumping out upgraded products, and scrambling to ink new deals with key partners. But a recent Goldman Sachs report questioned how long it would be before the companies, which have many similar and/or overlapping technologies, continue to play nice.
IBM Corp. Tuesday chalked up the former when it rolled out a couple of network-attached storage (NAS) towers as part of the next phase of its storage networking initiative, which debuted last February. Brocade inked the latter with Sun Microsystems Inc., a long-time EMC Corp. partner.
Big Blue launched the IBM TotalStorage NAS 200, a tower (one processor and up to 216 GB) targeted for the service provider community and e-mail storage or video file serving, and the more sophisticated, dual engine, TotalStorage NAS 300, which powers applications, such as accounts receivable, payroll or customer support, in large departments and small enterprise settings.
The NAS 200 also comes in a rack version designed for departmental and regional office locations for applications such as sales force support. As for the higher-end product, Big Blue also now offers a 300G version, which it says bridges the gap between the local area network (LAN) and a storage area network (SAN) with new clustering technology.
With these products, IBM is addressing the needs of customers who want to reduce their dependency on servers for access and management of storage while using the LAN to consolidate and store file data. And despite scads of competitors in the storage networking arena, IBM seems to be targeting Network Appliance in comparison, claiming that its new towers have bested NetApp's own products in benchmark tests. While the companies will no doubt disagree on the accuracy of each other's tests, one analyst who scrutinized IBM's NAS 200 and 300 towers attested to the potential of a single selling point for Big Blue: David G. Hill, research director, Storage & Storage Management, Aberdeen Group said "workgroup level customers will enjoy a sweet spot in price and performance."
While Big Blue shows its competitive colors with its new NAS releases, the company has also collaborated with rivals in the field to help the industry move forward; last Monday, IBM teamed with Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., EMC, Hitachi Data Systems Corp. and McData Corp. to work on interoperable storage networking solutions under the aegis of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA). The mass collaboration caused one analyst, Sean Derrington of Meta Group, to praise the firms for their willingness to work together.
"The fact that competing storage vendors have been able to agree on configurations and software levels to jointly qualify and have entered into cooperative support agreements is remarkable," Derrington said in a public release.
Allied and Axis Powers
The cooperative spirit was there for all to see last week, and it trickled over this week when Brocade, a leading switch provider for storage area networks (SANs), and Sun, forged a deal that would allow the hardware giant to resell, service and support Brocade's flagship SilkWorm fabric switches on a global basis. Brocade and Sun will also forge supported storage networking configurations as well as work together on the software development initiatives that were announced earlier this year.
Again, the announcement drew nothing but praise from an industry analyst, this time from Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst, the Enterprise Storage Group.