Five Companies That Came To Win This Week

Western Digital To Buy Hitachi GST

Western Digital shook up the storage industry this week with the news that it had agreed to acquire Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (GST) for $4.3 billion. As one of the "big two" hard drive makers, Western Digital made a big move to expand its business. As a result, the hard drive market is now a two-horse race between Seagate and Western Digital. Seagate had long been the leader in the market, but Western Digital has made major progress and actually overtook its chief rival last year in terms of total hard drive shipments. Now the Hitachi GST deal puts the vendor in an even stronger position.

Apple Launches iPad 2

Apple pleasantly surprised many people during its March 2 iPad 2 event when it said the new tablet would be available a little more than a week later. Now that's a quick turnaround. The iPad 2 officially goes on sale March 11, and you can be sure that legions of fans will be filling Apple Stores across the country as the new models sell out quickly. Getting the iPad 2 out to market this fast will give Apple a nice advantage over the competition.

Microsoft Calls Out VMware In Virtualization Rivalry

Microsoft put its sights on rival VMware this week at Everything Channel's XChange Solution Provider conference in Orlando, Fla. The software giant has been seen as a distant second to VMware in the area of virtualization. But Microsoft has stepped up both its rhetoric and its strategy; the company is now pushing its Hyper-V platform harder while criticizing VMware's products as being more expensive and offering less management functionality. Cindy Bates, vice president of U.S. SMB and Distribution for Microsoft, told XChange attendees that with Windows Server 2008 RP SP1, her company is "the strongest choice in the industry for virtualization."

And VMware Launches New Cloud Management Products

Microsoft may be calling out VMware and stepping up its virtualization game, but VMware is still king of the hill. And VMware looked to extend its lead this week with the launch of vCenter Operations, a suite of new products designed to help manage virtual and could environments running on vSphere. With the new release, VMware hopes to give users more control and management capabilities -- a frequent criticism of VMware technology from competitors like Microsoft.

"We're trying to automate the operational side and enable IT to have a proactive approach to troubleshooting," Rob Smoot, director of product marketing for VMware's vCenter management products, said in an interview with CRN. "For customers, instead of having tons of alerts and noise from the systems, you get an overall view of the health of the environment."

IBM, Novell Improve Partner Programs

At XChange Solution Provider in Orlando, Fla., this week, both IBM and Novell revealed some welcome changes to their respective partner programs. Novell unveiled a revamped channel program to help eliminate complexity and headaches for partners. For example, the company reduced 13 separate deal registration programs down to one for its new PartnerNet program, which Novell has begun to roll out live to partners.

Meanwhile, IBM said it would simplify its partner offerings. It condensed its four largest co-marketing programs into a single entity and is pushing new specializations, such as a new cloud specialty. It also introduced new industry certifications such as Software Plus.