With the launch of a new range of data storage systems, IBM has made an aggressive move on HP and EMC turf.
The new TotalStorage range, which will include the DS6000 and DS8000 series, was designed to wrest share from its major competitors by blurring the lines between high-end and mid-range disk storage devices, IBM storage business unit executive, Wayne Glynne, said.
"In the past, mid-range disks were lower in cost compared to enterprise class but you compromised in availability and generally had to have a different tool set and skill set to manage them," he said.
"This range delivers the same set of tools and functions in a machine that sits at the high-end of the market but at a mid-range price point."
EMC national product manager, Mark Heers, disputed IBM's assertion that it was the low-cost option.
"Vendors have to play at market pricing and EMC is not gaining market share by being the high-cost option," he said.
"We've gained about four per cent market share in 2003 by all analyst accounts."
Although IBM's share of the storage market had also improved during the past three years, storage research director at IDC, Graham Penn, said the new ranges were unlikely to cause a major upset.
Despite the vendor claiming its DS6000 series would be half the price of EMC's equivalent offering, Penn said this would be difficult for customers or competitors to evaluate because of the complexity inherent within the IBM model.
"Fundamentally, IBM is delivering the hardware cheap but there are new pricing options within the software that make it difficult for users and competitors to understand what those options are, and how those prices interact with what else is available in the market," he said.
"If you focus on acquisition costs alone, then IBM looks very good, but the complexities of the pricing model mean that calculating the total cost of ownership is going to take a fair bit of work."
Glynne said resellers would benefit from enterprise features being offered at mid-range prices.
"The IT industry occasionally has paradigm shifts, such as the release of the personal computer, and when that happens we see substantial shifts in market share to different suppliers in the marketplace," he said.
Glynne said the channel strategy for the launch would be to train its own reseller base during the next two months before looking to poach partners from its competitors.
"We have a small and loyal group of resellers for this product set, but given the advent of the DS6000 we are looking to broaden our base too," he said.
"We are particularly interested in talking to our competitors' resellers to gain extra coverage."
However, in the short term there would likely be little change to the way IBM competed in the open systems market, IDC's Penn said.
"IBM's DS4000 will continue on for at least 18 months because the technology is known and accepted by end-users," he said.
"IBM's resellers are also familiar and comfortable with that range so may not see a need to accelerate their training on the new offering."
In its desire to dethrone HP as market leader, the biggest challenge would be in convincing distributors to balance out their wallet share with IBM, Glynne said.
"HP has achieved its position because of an ability to cover the market through distribution," he said.
"So recruiting more distributors is certainly something we're considering at the moment."
HP was unavailable for comment by deadline.