Users to benefit from IBM, Compaq SAN pact

There's nothing like two former storage rivals cooperating to further the cause of SAN (storage area networks), and users will only benefit, say analysts.

Graham Penn, senior storage analyst at IDC, said Compaq and IBM's agreement to bury the hatchet and couple their storage offerings in one interoperable product line has major implications for the mid-range and smaller companies that want to implement SAN technology, but are unsure of the investment.

"This announcement will start to solidify the loose standards slowly emerging in the SAN space," he said.

Other analysts agreed. "We are seeing some SANs deployed with heterogeneous components, but not universally," said Randy Kerns, a partner at analyst firm Evaluator Group.

"This [announcement] will accelerate that progress with two huge companies behind it saying that all their storage will work together and that all new releases will also interoperate. This takes away some of the fear that the SAN you buy will be obsolete in a few months," Kerns said.

Penn dismissed claims that the move will create a portfolio large enough to possibly threaten EMC's dominant market share. "EMC operates in a slightly different market in the enterprise space," he said.

Meanwhile, the vendors themselves were bullish about the deal. "What we are doing today is taking the anxiety out of implementing storage networking by making our storage solutions interoperable," said IBM senior VP Nick D'Onfrio.

"In this age of the Internet, no one can do it all," said Compaq CEO Michael Capellas. "It's all about interoperability."

But Mark Frederickson, a spokesman for EMC, said he believed the partnership of Compaq and IBM will only confuse the customers of the two companies.

Frederickson called the deal "a sign of dual desperation" and a prelude to "a positioning nightmare" that will force sales representatives for both Compaq and IBM to explain away ‘competitor bashing' levelled against each other before the truce.

"And there is no new technology in the [Compaq and IBM] deal," Frederickson added. "Every product that's being offered now [from the alliance] could have been purchased separately last week."

* Dan Neel and Ed Scannell contributed to this article

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