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By | Ashlee Vance 6th April 2005 16:18

IBM hands over NAS duties to NetApp in mega storage tie-up

It's an EMC hate thang

If you're EMC, the last couple of hours haven't been terribly pleasant. That's because two of EMC's rivals - IBM and Network Appliance - announced a major alliance designed to crimp EMC's style in the network attached storage (NAS) market.

IBM will now start reselling NetApp's entire line of NAS gear and related software. The products will ship with an IBM sticker and have a couple tweaks here and there, but they'll all be pure NetApp underneath the bezel. In return, NetApp will promote IBM "as its preferred supplier of tape" products and will make sure IBM's Tivoli storage management software works great with NetApp's hardware.

The vendors' weren't terribly coy about what they hope to accomplish with this arrangement. Their joint press release announcing the deal was entitled: "IBM AND NETWORK APPLIANCE TEAM TO TAKE ON EMC."

NetApp has to be seen as a big winner here. It gets one of the world's largest sales channels via such a massive partner. It has one less competitor to worry about and more muscle to go up against rival EMC. NetApp isn't always the most aggressive company, so having the fierce sales arm of IBM on its side will help too.

IBM, on the other hand, could use a serious NAS boost. Its networked storage revenue dropped 18 per cent in the fourth quarter, according to IDC, which marked part of a larger, overall decline in storage sales.

In addition, IBM has had trouble making up its mind in the NAS space - a market dominated by EMC and NetApp. In the past, it sold a hulking NAS 500 Gateway system aimed only at large customers. Then, last year, IBM decided the low-end NAS market was worth its effort and began selling a cheaper single processor version of the NAS 500. Since that move, IBM has hardly uttered a peep about its NAS gear.

As a result of the new deal, IBM is currently debating whether or not to keep selling the NAS 500 system. The same goes for its iSCSI SAN products. The companies expect the new IBM-branded gear to arrive in the channel by the third quarter.

All of this has to be seen as good news for IBM's customers who can now purchase top NAS gear straight from Big Blue. IBM has placed much more attention on its Fibre Channel SAN hardware, leaving its NAS line and associated market share to languish. NetApp didn't really need any help selling systems, but having the IBM channel at its feet is pretty nice. ®

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IDC's storage winners and losers
Business goes mad for storage
EMC preps iSCSI binge
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