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IBM pins its hopes on Storage Tank

IBM has begun early customer testing of its Storage Tank file system, which promises to ease storage management. Analysts claimed the company could deliver the technology by the end of the year.

Customers have started testing their applications, which run on various server operating systems, with the Storage Tank file system, said Linda Sanford, senior vice president and group executive for IBM's storage systems group.

"The code is running," Sanford said. "We have shown Storage Tank handling databases, file serving and file sharing with various applications. We will introduce it when it's ready to perform flawlessly and our customers tell us they have what they need."

IBM has grand visions for Storage Tank, hoping the file system will simplify the management of data sitting on servers and storage systems made by a wide array of vendors.

The Storage Tank file system should give administrators a way to pool servers and storage hardware and manage the data used by these systems from one central location.

The technology would help remove barriers caused by different vendors' hardware and allow data to travel across various file systems without losing management policies set by the administrator.

"It allows hardware from Sun [Microsystems], IBM, Hewlett-Packard and others that is in a common SAN to have the same view," said Steve Duplessie, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group.

"Other companies that have been trying to develop that type of technology have been too small, but IBM could pull it off. The question is whether other tier-one vendors will want to partner with them," he added.

IBM would like to see other hardware makers share in the development of Storage Tank-based technology in order to solve the painful task of storage management. IBM's Sanford claimed rivals have shown a "very positive reaction" to Storage Tank, although major competitor EMC is one vendor that does not share her perspective on the technology.

"I don't think that trying to do something standard another layer up will solve all these problems," said Jim Rothnie, senior vice-president and chief technology officer at EMC. "I think it's just another file system, and it's far-fetched to me that it would be widely adopted."

The cloudy picture of Storage Tank's place among hardware vendors may clear up by year's end when the technology rolls out, analysts said.

Sanford claims IBM has a significant lead over competitors with this type of management technology. Bringing products to market by the end of this year would put the company in a good position to compete against similar efforts by the likes of Sun and Veritas.

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