HDS strikes storage deal with NetApp

In a move that looks good on paper for both parties, Hitachi Data Systems and Network Appliance Wednesday announced they've joined forces to create a NAS gateway product.

According to NetApp and HDS, the two companies will work together to develop a gateway product that will debut in the first quarter of 2003. The new gateway, about which at this time the companies will not divulge many details, will be co-developed and sold only by HDS.

Phil Townsend, senior director of worldwide marketing at HDS, explained the gateway is being designed to work in conjunction with HDS' existing line of Freedom storage systems that include a family of high-end storage arrays, dubbed Lightning, and a modular line named Thunder.

Townsend said the gateway will use NetApp's software and filer technology and will be designed to leverage features of HDS' storage systems. In other words, the back-end of the gateway will be tightly integrated with the existing HDS SAN boxes.

The new gateway will replace an OEMed NAS appliance that HDS had been selling via its now null resell agreement with Chantilly, Va.-based Network Storage Solutions (NSS). HDS had been reselling NSS' Thunderbolt NAS filers since June 2001. Townsend said the agreement was dissolved "a few months ago," and that no public statement was issued.

Tony Prigmore, a senior analyst at the Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group Inc., said the NetApp relationship is significant for HDS and a boon for customers.

"HDS' relationship with NSS was as stopgap measure to allow a select number of customers to do file services," said Prigmore. "HDS never pushed or made a big deal of the relationship."

He continued by saying that this agreement is different and that NetApp is a company with viability and a good name with proven technology.

"With this agreement HDS has just shortened its sales cycle," said Prigmore. "There will be no market resistance to the NetApp brand and technology."

On the competitive front, this agreement puts HDS on a level playing field with EMC Corp., said Prigmore. "HDS had been somewhat limited, but now they can play on the same field now they have a file solution [to complement its block solutions]."

EMC has a NAS gateway device dubbed Celerra. Gateways have become en vogue to SAN manufacturers as a way to let existing SAN customers utilize the higher end capacity that define SANs.

"There is a lot of HDS Freedom infrastructure out there and many customers are now requiring file-based access to data," said Townsend. "We're taking the capacity of SAN and making it available via a NAS gateway."

Prigmore concluded that this news is best of all for customers who will now have a third major NAS vendor, thus making competition fiercer and likely forcing prices lower.

"Before it was just EMC and NetApp," said Prigmore. "Now it is a whole lot more interesting."

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