IBM, Hitachi In Interoperability Testing Deal

IBM: Just fulfilling customer needs for heterogeneous storage

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IBM is proving its commitment to open storage by bringing Hitachi Data Systems in to test that its Freedom Storage 7700 and 9900 arrays work with IBM's NAS 300 gateway, a device that allows SAN arrays to also serve NAS data.

The NAS 300, unveiled last year, currently allows IBM's FAStT and Shark arrays to be connected as a NAS subsystem, said Bob Mahoney, vice president for IBM's storage networking solutions.

IBM is working with Hitachi on the testing and hopes to make an announcement in the second quarter, Mahoney said.

By allowing an Hitachi array to connect to IBM's NAS gateway, IBM risks increased competition not only from Hitachi, but from Sun Microsystems, which resells the 9900 array, and from Hewlett-Packard, which OEMs the 7700 and 9900.

Mahoney said he is not concerned about potential competition because customers already have heterogeneous storage environments and IBM is looking to meet their needs.

"The way we look at it is, we are going to provide to our customers what our customers are asking us for," Mahoney said. "Interoperability in an open environment--that is our commitment. We believe that is what our customers are asking for, and it is what we are going to provide. Will that open up the avenue for more Hitachi? Possibly. But on the other hand, we've been growing our storage business dramatically over the past couple of quarters, and we are very confident in our technology and in our storage devices, and in our plans for the future."

Mahoney would not discuss plans to test interoperability with storage arrays from other vendors, other than to say that Hitachi for now is the only one to accept IBM's invitation to jointly test the solution.

In related news, Adalio Sanchez, general manager for IBM's Storage Networking Division, expects the iSCSI storage market to take off next year.

IBM has been shipping an iSCSI appliance for about a year. However, said Sanchez, the market is still in its infancy because the iSCSI standard will not be ratified until possibly mid-summer, and TCP offload engines are still six months or more away from being widely available.

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