IBM, Network Appliance team to boost storage businesses

IBM and Network Appliance are partnering in a deal that allows IBM to sell some Network Appliance storage products under the IBM logo in an effort to expand market presence against storage powerhouse EMC.

In an announcement Wednesday, IBM and Network Appliance said the deal will permit IBM to rebrand and sell network-attached storage and iSCSI/IP SAN products, including NearStore, V-Series systems and software from Network Appliance.

The deal, which will bring the first IBM-labeled products to market starting in the third quarter of the year, also calls for increased integration of Network Appliance applications with IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager software.

Chris Foster, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said the deal "works out nicely for both companies." It gives IBM the ability to get more of its Tivoli storage management software into the marketplace, while Network Appliance gains additional access to useful management tools from IBM, he said. "Network Appliance needs this to better compete with EMC," he noted.

But the benefits for users aren't as clear, he said. "It's not a tremendous impact for the market overall," Foster said. "It's always better to have more choices in the marketplace," he said, but there already are abundant choices from competitors such as EMC and Hewlett-Packard.

In a conference call with reporters, Andy Monshaw, IBM's vice president of storage systems, said the contract was reached because customers have been saying that they want systems integration done before products are delivered to their doors.

"I talk to a lot of customers," Monshaw said. "They don't want to integrate. They want vendors to integrate. This fills in what our customers are looking for, to be able to integrate a complete information-on-demand [system]."

The deal is also aimed at raising storage system market share for both companies, Monshaw said. "Make no mistake, EMC is clearly in our sights," he said.

Dan Warmenhoven, CEO of Network Appliance, said in a statement that the pairing of the technologies will benefit from IBM's global market reach, service organization and technology portfolio.

"We expect this relationship to be mutually beneficial long term as we roll out our joint solutions over the coming year," Warmenhoven said.

Rick Lacroix, a spokesman for EMC, said the IBM-Network Appliance announcement doesn't offer new options for users as much as it highlights the deficiencies of both companies. Network Appliance has a "lack of global reach and a lack of a total solutions offering," while for IBM it highlights "the lack of success they've had in the NAS market," Lacroix said. "There is nothing new for the customer in this announcement."

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