IBM 'Turbo' storage products target EMC

Big Blue's new storage products offer faster performance, improved system management, lower cost of ownership

If turbocharging makes cars faster, IBM believes turbocharging its storage products will help it pass rival EMC.

IBM introduced new storage products offering faster performance, improved system management, and lower cost of ownership than previous IBM models or its competitors’. The new products also deepen IBM’s original equipment manufacturing (OEM) partnership with Network Appliance.

The high-end disk array IBM System Storage DS8000 Turbo line features what IBM calls an industry first 4Gbps FICON throughput--the amount of data that can be moved from storage to a computer--double the 2Gbps available now. The Turbo also runs on IBM’s Power 5 microprocessors that it says deliver 15 percent better performance than the previous DS8000 model.

Such products may be one reason IBM is gaining on market leader EMC. EMC has lost market share in its mainstay storage systems business, even as it focuses its attention on expanding into other areas, such as with its $2.1 billion acquisition of network security company RSA Security in June.

“We’ve been making strong inroads into market share that EMC has had,” said Charlie Andrews, director of product marketing in IBM’s System Storage division.

EMC’s worldwide external disk storage systems market share slipped to 20.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005, from 21.8 percent in the year earlier quarter, according to IDC. IBM’s share grew to 15.9 percent from 12.8 percent in the same period.

However, EMC remains the leader, reporting $3.36 billion in external disk storage revenue in the fourth quarter, followed by Hewlett-Packard with $2.97 billion, and IBM with $2.2 billion.

The DS8000 Turbo also features tiered storage, in which the first tier handles storage of frequently used data using high-speed Fibre Channel drives, while the second handles less frequently used data using lower cost advanced technology attachment (ATA) drives.

IBM also touts its three-site business continuity and disaster recovery capability, meaning there are two backups in case the main site goes down. The Turbo also comes with a four-year warranty, which should reduce the cost of ownership for enterprises that deploy the equipment, said Andrews.

“Nobody in the enterprise space wants boxes that are unserviced,” he said.

IBM also introduced the System Storage N7000 Series, models developed through IBM’s partnership with Network Appliance, launched in April 2005. Net App will produce the N7000 Series as IBM products while also selling similar models under its own brand, said Andrews.

The N7000s are configurable to serve small businesses and large enterprises and have features that assist in the consolidation of data center operations.

The new product launches should make IBM competitive with EMC in what has historically been EMC’s core product line of storage, said Roger Cox, an analyst with Gartner.

“EMC is IBM’s primary competitor in high end disk array,” says Cox. “But EMC has lost market share and the biggest gainer has been IBM."

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