IBM Turns Up Heat on Storage Rival

In an aggressive bid to capture customers from rival storage systems maker EMC , IBM has launched a new migration program and a Linux-based appliance to replace EMC storage servers with IBM storage servers.

IBM and EMC compete alongside Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) in the market for enterprise-class storage boxes that house and maintain the data of Fortune 2000 companies. But with the boxes so widespread across enterprise systems, the market has become commoditized, leaving many players to compete on price alone.

Now, with enterprise spending expected to increase in the coming year, IBM has ramped up its migration program worldwide by deploying an army of more than 100 consultants and technologists focused on moving customers from EMC’s installed base of Symmetrix storage systems to its own enterprise-grade Shark machines. Part of the pitch is the argument that Symmetrix is proprietary and inflexible — and therefore more costly.

IBM’s product is a solution it calls “Piper,” a rack-mounted, Linux-based device that includes mainframe and Unix migration tools, an Ethernet hub, Fibre Channel switches, and eight migration engines — all in an “indestructible box that sucks the data from Symmetrix” or virtually any other vendor’s box, according to Lou Sciacchetano, vice president of competitive sales worldwide at IBM.

“We have seen much more demand for customers to move off old proprietary systems and to move on to new, open systems,” says Sciacchetano, who notes
that the migration program quietly moved 100 customers in Thailand over the last year. “We’ve just decided to take it public knowing that this is something we regularly do.”

EMC spokesman Dave Farmer believes IBM’s move underscores the momentum behind some of EMC’s sales, and notes that Shark sales were down 10 percent in the third quarter.

IBM’s “CFO openly admitted losing share to a key competitor in the high-end,” Farmer told “On the technology side, EMC introduced non-disruptive data migration in the mid-’90s, and in the last 2 years has migrated more than a thousand terabytes of IBM storage onto EMC for more than 300 customers.”

IBM’s Piper-based migration bid is hitting the market as more companies are identifying increased storage needs within their IT departments, but have postponed or cancelled migration initiatives due to concerns over network disruptions and downtime.

It also comes at a time when EMC’s profile in the software industry has soared in the wake of its successful acquisition of archiving specialist Legato and its announcement to acquire enterprise content management provider Documentum.

Analysts have said the purchases have made EMC a force to be reckoned with in storage software, giving it another weapon in its arsenal to accompany multi-million dollar, enterprise-grade Symmetrix DMX systems that are part of its customer base.

IBM’s Sciacchetano told that the company’s migration program has already brought in some EMC customers, such as Royal Caribbean, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Hennepin County, and Insurance Services Office (ISO).

On a related note, EMC’s Executive Vice President of Open Software Mark Lewis on Tuesday told an investor conference that the company’s information lifecycle management (ILM) strategy is a key part of its growth plans. Overall, he reported EMC expects growth of between 3 percent and 4 percent growth worldwide IT spending in 2004.

Lewis also said he expects the market for compliance and backup and recovery solutions to continue to grow as enterprises continue to consume more unstructured (e-mail, PDFs, etc.) and structured data (XML documents).

“Electronic records were like the wild, wild west until this past year,” Lewis said in his keynote. “Proper record keeping was not embraced, but it is becoming ingrained in electronic management. Our vision for the future of EMC is to become the ultimate ILM company to provide the maximum value of information for your company at the lowest cost.”

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Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor and a senior writer for covering IT leadership, the CIO role, and digital transformation.

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