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Enterprise storage wars heat up

The enterprise storage market has been heating up of late, with major vendors precisely pinpointing each others’ customers as targets for their own sales pitch.

The enterprise storage market has been heating up of late, with major vendors precisely pinpointing each others’ customers as targets for their own sales pitch.

Compaq and IBM entered a strategic agreement which sees the two determined to offer interoperability between each other’s storage hardware and software.

As part of this commitment, the two will distribute each other’s storage products to their customers in amounts that could exceed US$1 billion, the companies said.

Compaq and IBM plan to work together to create standards for open storage network solutions, including storage-area networks (SANs), they said.

Specifically, Compaq will sell IBM’s “Shark” Enterprise Storage Servers and select Tivoli systems management software, and IBM will sell Compaq StorageWorks arrays and software, and will support Compaq’s VersaStor technology.

Customer Centres

Each company also plans to provide equipment, software and staff to support each other’s open storage networking customer centres.
But whilst that agreement unravelled, rival Hewlett-Packard made its intentions far clearer; it wants pieces of the business owned by Sun Microsystems and storage giant EMC.

The specifics of this renewed attack on these two rivals are that HP will make use of new storage services and a new high-end storage array which it has OEMed from its Hitachi Data Systems.

On the Sun front, HP is tightening the compatibility of its storage hardware and software with the Solaris operating system. HP is also opening a data centre equipped with Sun servers for use in hosting disaster recovery services, making it the newest commercial provider of rival Sun services.

HP also continued the assault on former storage partner EMC by unveiling the XP512 storage array. The XP512, from Hitachi Data Systems, is a follow-on to the XP256 array HP released in May 1999 after its split with EMC.

“We are targeting customers with dedicated Sun or EMC storage,” said David Scott, general manager of HP’s Extended Platform Storage Organisation. “We are also targeting service providers.”

HP plans to offer a full set of consulting services, including some aimed at critical support, for Sun Solaris environments, said Scott.
HP is working with third-party software vendor Veritas to support Sun clusters to add intercluster failover capability to Solaris and plans to offer failover to remote locations late this year.

Integrated Application

In addition, HP’s OpenView management application is now integrated with Sun’s Management Centre, allowing OpenView users to get a total view of their Sun environments, Scott said.

HP’s new XP512 offers 6.4-Gbyte-per-second performance thanks to the use of its crossbar interconnect, which both HP and Hitachi Data Systems claim to be superior to traditional data busses found in most storage devices.

Both Sun and EMC were probably watching HP’s moves as they unfolded, said Mike Kahn, chairman of The Clipper Group, a consulting firm in Massachusetts.

“It is HP’s services and their marketing that will cause Sun to focus on defending its turf,” Kahn says. “EMC will focus on the box. [EMC is] behind in capacity and the potential capacity. EMC, IBM and others will catch up, but the HP guys have the lead for now.”

Sun Microsystems’ customers are open to vendor competition, Kahn says. “If the supplier is serious, Sun customers will give the vendor consideration,” he says. “And HP is serious.”

HP is not unique in offering Sun services, says Kahn. “IBM Global Services may be the biggest buyer of Sun servers in the world,” he says. “But in [HP’s] case, the marketing profile is higher, and the attack is more direct.”

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