IBM's SAN Volume Controller Play

Partners that sell the product, which features 2 Tbytes of capacity, will receive an additional, deep discount, IBM executives said. "We are going to get this out to as many partners and as many accounts as we can," said Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM Storage.

The new program comes on the heels of Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM's announcement last week of its 1,000th storage software virtualization win, a deal with networking leader Cisco Systems, San Jose, Calif.

Monshaw said the Seed And Grow program was developed as a result of discussions with partners that were looking for a way to significantly expand SAN Volume Controller sales. "The idea is to have a thin SAN Volume Controller that is kind of a starter set," he said. "We'll have some partner incentives around it. Once SAN Volume Controller is in and implemented, it is going to grow."

Monshaw said he expects the number of storage software virtualization deals to grow dramatically over the next several years. "We are at an inflection point," he said. "It's going to be a big number."

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Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based partner of IBM and EMC, said virtualization only recently has started gaining traction in part due to the increased availability of in-band, out-of-band and network-based storage virtualization technologies.

The solution provider is testing IBM's SAN Volume Controller in its lab, and so far it seems to be working well, Teter said. "We can connect to various hosts and various drive technologies and implement policies [using SAN Volume Controller]," he said. "We are just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel."

JOSEPH F. KOVAR contributed to this story.