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IBM targets EMC, competitors for storage changeouts

IBM targets EMC, competitors for storage changeouts

IBM Wednesday announced a services program designed to lure EMC customers onto IBM storage systems with the promise that migrating data from older to newer storage servers will be nondisruptive and offer a total cost of ownership savings.

IBM's migration program involves 100 consultants in its Global Services business trained to use a new technology that IBM calls Piper. The technology uses server and data migration software to move information from older model storage arrays onto IBM storage boxes, including its Enterprise Storage Server or Shark and the Fabric-Attached Storage line of arrays.

The initiative relies on a three-pronged approach: evaluation of a user's infrastructure, development of a model and assessment of financing options, and deployment of the architecture.

IBM said that while its migration technology works with any vendor's equipment, including boxes from Hitachi Data Systems Corp., it is chiefly targeting top competitor EMC. "There's lots of old, proprietary EMC boxes out there -- 30,000 by my last count," said Lou Sciacchetano, IBM's worldwide vice president of competitive sales.

IBM said it has already used the program to win over former EMC customers Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the Hennepin County and Insurance Services Office in Hennepin, Minn., and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bob Cosby, storage administrator for the Department of Agriculture's National Finance Center, said he completed the second part of an ongoing migration from two older model EMC Symmetrix arrays to an IBM Shark last weekend. Cosby said he wanted to upgrade to newer storage technology to gain features such as snapshot, which allows instantaneous backup of data without disrupting business applications.

Cosby said he completed the transfer of about 2.5TB of data in 48 hours without disrupting business applications. "The thing I love about it is you're not spinning your own CPU cycles. It was painfully transparent," he said.

He said the three vendors bidding for the National Finance Center's data storage contract -- IBM, EMC and Hitachi Data Systems -- "all have good equipment, but the bottom line is price." And while all three vendors arrays were comparable in functionality and price, IBM undercut the competition on management software.

That's where IBM says it has its advantage.

Sciacchetano acknowledged that IBM probably can't undercut EMC and other vendors on a price-per-megabyte basis these days, but he said the company "will try to ensure servers, storage management software and implementation services" do come in at a lower price point as part of any "complete package."

Anne MacFarland, an analyst at The Clipper Group in Wellesley, Mass., said IBM has a leg up on other leading storage vendors in that it is the first to come out with an appliance to ease the process of migrating from one vendor's storage systems to another. Normally, she said, vendors perform the arduous task of copying data that resides on legacy systems onto their own equipment -- eating up valuable CPU cycles -- and then perform a comparison of the information to ensure it's accurate.

"There was no way to throttle back on the migration process to respond to bandwidth needs of the business' applications," MacFarland said. "These days, when you don't have that weekend window all the time to perform data migration, you're going to have to do it while things are up and running and not have an effect on them."

IBM's Piper technology works by splitting the data stream from EMC arrays so that it has two targets, IBM's replacement arrays and the original host server, Sciacchetano said.

While EMC doesn't use an appliance to migrate data from competitors' arrays to its own hardware, an EMC spokesman said the company invented its own nondisruptive data migration technology in 1995.

"We use a combination of host software and/or storage-based replication, coupled with a rigorous planning methodology to execute data migrations with a minimum of time, effort and risk," he said. "Over the last two years, we've migrated over a thousand terabytes of IBM data for over 100 customers onto EMC storage."

And, he said, EMC "clearly has the momentum" over IBM.

EMC sales this year are up 11 percent compared to overall estimated storage market growth of 2 percent to 3 percent, "clearly a sign that EMC is gaining share," he said.


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