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Guided by its recently appointed general manager of storage software Michael Zisman, a former president of Lotus Software Group, IBM's new plan of action has finally brought Big Blue up to speed with enterprise storage players such as EMC and Hitachi Data Systems, according to industry experts.
"We're impressed at the rate of change that Zisman has been able to bring to IBM's storage organisation," Tony Prigmore, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group, said. "This new plan will no longer give IBM sales representatives the excuse to tell a customers that [IBM] doesn't have a certain storage technology."
IBM has laid out its enterprise storage strategy as a three-prong plan - heavy on the software side. Similar to competitors EMC and Hitachi, IBM's aim is to migrate its primary storage revenue stream to software while "reducing its dependency on lower-margin hardware," Prigmore said.
Linux-based virtualisation, IBM's Storage Tank file system and storage network designs based on mixed-vendor interoperability guidelines set forth by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), represent the three areas of innovation that IBM will pursue along its enterprise storage roadmap.
Virtualisation efforts from IBM will improve users' ability to manage multiple pools of storage as a single, virtual storage disk. IBM's commitment to Linux will drive its efforts in storage virtualisation as many of the storage appliances that foster virtualisation are Linux-based, Prigmore said.
Big Blue's Storage Tank file system will also fuel IBM's progress along its enterprise storage roadmap, company representatives said. Storage Tank is IBM's upcoming storage file system for mixed-vendor hardware and software environments.
Both Storage Tank and IBM's storage virtualisation technology will arrive in 2003, according to IBM.
Following many of the interoperability guidelines currently being set forth by SNIA, open storage architectures will also play a key role in IBM's enterprise storage. SNIA is a storage industry group with a membership ledger that includes nearly every major and minor storage player in the industry.
Zisman said IBM embraces SNIA's belief that storage management must include technology that improves both block-level and file-level data transfers.
Until the late arrival of IBM's Shark storage server in mid-1999, IBM was not generally regarded as an enterprise storage player in a market that was quickly moving away from mainframe-style direct-attached storage to networked storage such as SANs (storage area networks).
Now, after two years of what Prigmore called "playing catch-up," IBM is positioned to go head-to-head against the biggest giants in the storage sector as its enterprise storage roadmap unfolds.
"Now IBM is going to able to have discussions with the customers which are much more complete discussions regarding storage management, higher functionality options and the integration of things like replication to backup," Prigmore said.
"Our message is very simple and very crisp, and we are working hard to educate not only the sales organisation but the marketing and development organisation," Zisman said. "We've gone through a long process of distilling this strategy down, and I think we now have it down to the point where it's pretty simple."