Channel Has Mixed Feelings About EMC's Astrum Acquisition

EMC closed the deal to buy the Charlestown, Mass.-based developer of storage resource management (SRM) software late last Friday, but waited until Tuesday to unveil the move.

Pat Sherman, vice president of sales and co-owner of eServ, a Peoria, Ill.-based EMC solution provider, said the acquisition makes sense for EMC. "From EMC's perspective, it's, 'We are no longer a hardware company, we are a software company,'" he said. "There is a real need for storage resource management in the midrange."

Astrum, one of the last of the stand-alone SRM software developers, did not have much of a channel program, but it did have an OEM relationship with Overland Storage, a San Diego, Calif.-based tape automation vendor

An EMC spokesperson, however, said the company expects to continue that relationship in the short term but declined to comment on the long-term prospects.

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Jennifer Dion, director of product management for the Storage Management Business Unit at Overland, said the company, which gets 100 percent of its revenue through the channel, has had internal discussions about the relationship since EMC told Overland about the acquisition on Monday.

"We're pleased EMC acquired Astrum," Dion said. "We don't see a downside. EMC has a very good position in the high-end space, while we focus on the midrange," she said.

Dion said the contract between Astrum and Overland covers such issues as acquisitions. "A lot of acquisitions go on in this market," she said. "We are aware of this. We fully intend to continue with Overland SRM that we now OEM from Astrum."

Overland is currently testing version 3.2 of the SRM application, which Dion said is expected to ship about May 1. It will include agents to support Microsoft Exchange 2000, Sybase and NetWare 5.1, and will finally be available with European language support.

One Overland solution provider, however, sees the EMC acquisition of Astrum as the end of Overland's foray into the storage software space.

"It's a big problem," said the solution provider, who asked to remain anonymous. "EMC isn't going to give anyone else a head start on something they are focusing on. If they can sell it through Dell, they will, and screw Overland."

Overland never fully developed its SRM program, and at $20,000 per Tbyte of managed storage, that software is expensive, this solution provider said. "Not only does it compete against other SRM software, you can just add more hardware for less money," said the solution provider. "And customers today are looking to spend as little as they can. SRM was the wrong product for the wrong company at the wrong time."

EServ's Sherman agreed that such software in the hands of EMC will make Dell--EMC's biggest reseller of midrange Clariion arrays--more competitive.

"But I don't see Dell as a strong competitor," Sherman said. "Dell's very good at distribution and has a lot of customers. But they're very skinny in the field. This tool won't add much to Dell. It's just one more SKU for them. But it's good for EMC's solution providers."