EMC, Microsoft Bolster Storage Bond

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EMC stepped up its
partnership with Microsoft Monday and released a new network-attached storage appliance that
is compatible with Windows.

The development, dubbed a “breakthrough” by at least one industry analyst,
means EMC and Microsoft customers will be able to use one console to manage
all their storage, rather than having to launch separate tools to manage the
NAS and disk array functions. This is going to make managing storage much
more convenient for enterprise customers.

Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC made the announcement, targeted at the low-end of the storage market, at its EMC Technology
Summit in Las Vegas, where Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer joined EMC CEO Joe
Tucci on stage to unveil the EMC NetWin 200 box, based on the code
bases of Microsoft Windows and EMC’s CLARiiON networked storage.

The NetWin 200 system is the new entry point into EMC’s NAS product family,
and is ideal for Windows NAS customers looking for larger
storage capacities and improved functionality. NetWin 200 systems
integrate CLARiiON’s storage functionality with Windows NAS and
will be fully supported by EMC’s OnCourse software, providing automated
distribution of files. The NetWin 200 can be fully managed from either a
Windows or EMC ControlCenter environment.

NetWin 200 and future EMC Windows-powered NAS products will complement EMC’s
high-end Celerra NAS product family. Customers who need stronger systems can
move from the NetWin Windows Powered NAS family to EMC’s Celerra NS600,
which combines the power of CLARiiON with Celerra’s DART operating
environment and purpose-built data movers in a modular, integrated package.

Bill North, IDC research director for storage software, called the deal a
“breakthrough” in the management of network-attached storage.

“The use of Microsoft’s storage APIs to manage capabilities like replication
and multi-path I/O will give EMC customers tighter integration between
familiar Windows features and storage-based functionality,” North said in a
statement. “It has the added advantage of providing advanced storage support
for a wide range of applications already coded to make use of Microsoft
storage APIs. This means the entire storage solution should be easier to
deploy and manage.”

The news should also underscore Microsoft’s commitment to its storage
beliefs, which analysts have questioned of late. The Redmond, Wash. outfit
created its Enterprise Storage division about a year ago, but had done
little to promote storage beyond some NAS announcements.

The news was met by competitive sniping and cheers alike. Rival HP said the announcement demonstrates “once again that EMC is playing catch-up to HP in a market where customers prefer open, standard and modular solutions forcing proprietary technologies into decline.”

But EMC partner Dell applauded the news. “Today’s announcement underscores the power of the Windows platform and importance of networked storage in meeting business-critical requirements for customers of all sizes, today and in the future,” said Kevin Rollins, President and Chief Operating Officer, Dell. “Dell’s partnership with EMC and Microsoft is critical in helping customers realize lower TCO, increased performance and
greater investment protection, and we believe today’s announcement will
expand and accelerate those benefits.”

Enterprise Storage Group Senior Analyst Nancy Marrone said the point was for EMC to pick up a “low cost NAS solution to complement the rest of their line.” EMC also intends to leverage many of the new features of the Windows 2003 OS, like VSS and MPIO, into their management applications, offering additional “EMC” value to MFST customers, according to Marrone.

Enterprise Management Associates Analyst Mike Karp drew his own conclusions. “Dell is already EMC’s avenue into the lower end of the midrange. This will make that linkage even stronger. This will certainly fill another gap in EMC’s product line. But, they know how to sell Celerra as a consolidation engine. How will they sell this one? I think the key issue here will be how EMC enables its own sales force (and its channel sales forces) to sell the NAS boxes, and not the boxes themselves.”

Also, in an expansion of their February 2003 pact, EMC and Microsoft have
entered into a deal to provide mutual support for the EMC NetWin family and
the EMC Celerra family of NAS products.

Other specifics of the expanded partnership are as follows:

  • EMC will integrate Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 storage APIs (VSS,
    VDS, MPIO) with its storage platform functionality. EMC will integrate its
    ControlCenter open storage management applications, enabling customers to
    manage large Windows deployments in the enterprise.
  • EMC and Microsoft will define reference implementations for open
    storage management based on the new standards.
  • EMC and Microsoft will support methodologies for enterprise deployments
    of EMC products in Windows
  • The companies will initiate joint sales and marketing efforts to
    educate customers on the benefit of integrated Microsoft and EMC technology
    in networked storage environments.
  • EMC and Microsoft have signed a license agreement under Microsoft’s
    Communication Protocol Licensing Program (MCPP) to
    enable protocol interoperability between EMC’s networked storage devices and
    Windows client PCs.

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

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