Compaq Is Striving for Greater Storage Visibility

FRAMINGHAM (05/08/2000) - The biggest hurdle Compaq Computer Corp. has to overcome in the storage business just might be itself.

The Houston-based PC and server vendor has an impressive storage story to tell, but analysts and users said the company hasn't managed to tell it.

According to Stamford, Connecticut-based Meta Group Inc., Compaq finished a distant second behind Hopkinton, Massachusetts-based EMC Corp. in a poll of storage users.

Meta Group analyst Carl Greiner said Compaq executives have failed to emphasize the need for the company to consistently sell outside its own customer base.

That has forced the company to take a back seat.

But analysts said Compaq is rolling out products with capabilities that customers want such as managing storage-area networks (SAN), which Compaq has addressed as part of its Enterprise Network Storage Architecture (ENSA) initiative.

Potential Presence

One element under development - a management appliance - is a hardware platform for Compaq's SAN management applications. The platform could potentially become a SAN metadata server, managing access to data in a multihost SAN environment, according to John Webster, an analyst at Nashua, New Hampshire-based Illuminata Inc.

Webster said this type of product could enhance Compaq's presence in the storage market, but the company has to develop a strategy.

"The technology they're doing right, but they still need to work on marketing.

It's a dichotomy they're aware of," Webster said.

If it sends a "strong, consistent message" pushing the ENSA initiative, Compaq could start snagging enterprise market share away from EMC, Webster added.

The key is getting the message to corporate information technology decision-makers. Joe Furmanski, manager of systems and planning at UPMC Health System in Pittsburgh, said he had to educate his CIO about why Compaq's storage products are being used instead of EMC's.

"EMC markets at his level; Compaq doesn't," Furmanski said. But Compaq has a decent reputation in the storage industry, and it's a question of dedicated sales to the high-level corporate market, he added.

According to Bob Zimmerman, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Santa Clara, California, Compaq is also offering what IT shops want - a single vendor to go to for storage and other hardware systems.

"What's getting lost in the shuffle is Compaq is selling solutions, not boxes," Zimmerman said. "It's providing users ways to fix problems, rather than [saying], ‘Here are the pieces to fix, and you integrate them yourself.'"

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