Executives from EMC, Network Appliance and IBM met at Comdex for the "Storage Smackdown," a heated debate moderated by Network World editor John Dix.
The debate about the current state of storage and where the industry is heading saw the two storage companies attack each others' pricing and strategy. However, they were in agreement about the highly touted Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) standard for linking data storage systems over an IP, but added it would take a few years for the technology to mature.
The iSCSI standard was designed to let users send large amounts of data over an IP network, making it easier to link disparate storage servers. Companies such as IBM have already launched iSCSI products, but it will take three to five years before such products become commonplace in the data centre, said Michael Parker, director of technical business strategies at EMC.
The move toward iSCSI is part of a growing trend in the industry to push data sitting on large back-end storage servers out onto the network where more users in a company can access the information. Unlike EMC, Network Appliance has centred its storage philosophy around this network mantra since its inception but now finds itself meeting head-to-head competition in the NAS (network attached storage) market.
This year EMC will overtake Network Appliance in NAS revenue for the first time, according to preliminary figures for 2001 from International Data (IDC). Network Appliance, however, continues to ship more NAS units and claims this lead is a testament to EMC's notoriously high prices.
"EMC is making more in revenue because on a per unit basis they are charging three times as much," said David Hitz, founder and executive vice-president of engineering at Network Appliance.
In reply to this, Parker said: "We just passed Network Appliance on NAS revenue, not volume or units but revenue, which is usually how you count these things."
Perry Passin, manager of LAN operations at Olympus America said after the debate, he was interested in purchasing a NAS device, but found EMC to be "pushy and expensive" and was intrigued by what Network Appliance had to say.
"I would say that Network Appliance is certainly worth taking a look at after hearing this." he added.
The companies now plan to extend this NAS battle into the iSCSI market.
"When iSCSI came along it became clear that we needed to consider it seriously," Hitz said. "We will be shipping iSCSI support in the second half of next year."
Likewise, EMC is putting large amounts of research and development dollars behind iSCSI, Parker said, and looks to tempt users with products of its own.