IBM and Compaq Computer Thursday announced a strategic agreement to resell key storage products and to ensure interoperability of each company's storage hardware and software.
Systems covered by the deal include Compaq's StorageWorks Modular Array storage systems and software and VersaStor technology for SAN-wide utilization, as well as IBM's Shark Enterprise Storage Server platform and select Tivoli systems management software.
The companies said their total investments in the program could exceed $1 billion.
This pairing of competitors is viewed in some quarters as an effort to unseat fast- moving storage vendor EMC.
"Vendors who continue to promote proprietary systems and standards will find themselves increasingly isolated," said Linda Sanford, General Manager, IBM Storage Subsystems Division.
Several market analysts predicted that IT departments will be the beneficiaries of the move to multivendor interoperability and open standards.
In the first steps of the deal, Compaq will use IBM's Shark enterprise storage servers and Tivoli Systems's management software with its own portfolio. IBM will use Compaq's StorageWorks Modular Array storage systems and software, which will include IBM 10,000 RPM hard disk drives, as well as supporting Compaq's VersaStor technology for SAN storage.
"In the age of the Internet, no one can do it all," said Compaq President and CEO Michael Capellas, "This is the first time that two large storage providers have agreed to endorse a common set of interoperability standards. Both sets of products from both companies will have the ability to interoperate and this has tremendous value for the customers."
The two companies also plan to provide equipment, software and staffing to support each other's storage networking customer centers. The customer centers will also allow the companies to demonstrate the products' interoperability to customers.
"What we're doing today literally tells our customers we're going to take the anxiety out of implementing storage networking," said Nick Donofrio, chairman of IBM's Corporate Technology Council, and leader of IBM's strategy development for advanced technology.
Some viewers will see the agreement between the two large computer technology players as an effort to gain ground on EMC, a company that has enjoyed tremendous success in a storage systems and software market that IDC Consulting predicts will grow to total $53 billion by 2003.
"At the end of the day, both companies want to be more successful competing against EMC," said John McArthur, IDC's vice president for storage research in Framingham, Mass.
"EMC has the banner of openness when it comes to platform support, added McArthur, who said EMC's storage management software should be viewed as proprietary.
"EMC is host independent but not storage hardware independent," he said.
"One way to help move yourself further along 'versus EMC' is to partner, to collaborate with your competitors," said McArthur, who also noted that today's agreement is a big step forward toward open standards in the networked storage industry.
With the deal, IT will soon be able to use Compaq's VersaStor to manage a storage pool, but it doesn't have to be an all-Compaq pool, McArthur noted.
The deal fills some holes in IBM's product line, said McArthur. The firm and its resellers can now offer an open systems heterogeneous storage solution that they can price more competitively than the IBM Shark offering.
And Compaq has been getting locked out of some sites because it didn't offer S/390 and AS/400 support, said McArthur.
Includes material by Douglas F. Gray, IDC News Service.