The biggest name in software and the biggest name in third-party storage, Microsoft Corp. and EMC Corp., announced an extended partnership that is said to involve the sharing of Windows Server 2003 storage application programming interfaces and creation of a new family of Windows-based EMC network-attached storage (NAS) products.
Microsoft and Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC on Monday held a joint press conference at the EMC Technology Summit in Las Vegas, making public their extended business and technology relationship.
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, and Joe Tucci, EMC's president and CEO, meted out the details of the deal, including the integration of Windows storage technologies, new marketing and sales initiatives and new service and support agreements. The companies said that the results of the effort will be improved manageability and integration of Windows technology into automated networked storage environments.
The partnership will start with EMC's integration of Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 storage application programming interfaces (APIs) with its ControlCenter storage management applications.
Next on the agenda, Microsoft and EMC will work together to "define best practices and reference implementations" for storage management, based on storage management standards.
Finally, EMC will license Microsoft's Windows Powered NAS (formerly known as the Windows Server Appliance Kit, or SAK) software and use it as the basis for a new family of EMC NAS products. The companies said they will collaborate to make Windows-based products compatible with EMC's Celerra NAS family.
Steve Kenniston, a senior analyst with Enterprise Storage Group Inc., based in Milford, Mass., said the Windows-powered NAS market is gaining a great deal of momentum with the likes of IBM Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., as well as others, such as Iomega. All are stepping up to the plate with Windows in their products.
He added that deployment gets "easier" with the evolution of any operating system. "It makes sense that EMC would want to participate in the business," he said. "The nice thing about the partnership is now customers who run an EMC ControlCenter shop can manage the [Windows-powered NAS] boxes via ControlCenter, keeping management to a single pane of glass."
As for the competition, Kenniston said the high-end market shouldn't be affected, however. Even though the relationship between Network Appliance and Microsoft is good, the Microsoft-EMC deal brings another level of integration into that space and could start to impact NetApp's margins.
The first new NAS box, dubbed the NetWin 200, is a Windows-Clariion hybrid of sorts.
The NetWin 200 system is the new entry-level system in EMC's NAS product line. It combines Windows Powered NAS with EMC's Clariion CX networked storage platform. EMC said the NetWin 200 can be managed from either a Windows or EMC ControlCenter environment.
The sticking point for some is the projected price for the NetWin 200. EMC said the NetWin 200 will be available later this year starting at $50,000.
"I can understand why EMC might want to have a Microsoft SAK-based alternative NAS array in its product portfolio, but what I don't understand is the high price," said John Webster, founder and senior analyst for the Nashua, N.H.-based Data Mobility Group Inc.
David Donatelli, EMC's executive vice president of platform operations, said that, with the introduction of NetWin, EMC can now offer customers a broader, more scalable family of NAS products with consistent management, file distribution capabilities and Microsoft Windows compatibility, from the entry-level Windows Powered NAS family scaling up to EMC's Celerra family.
According to Randy Kerns, a senior analyst with Evaluator Group Inc., based in Greenwood Village, Colo., the Microsoft-EMC partnership is good publicity for both companies.
"Microsoft gets more visibility of its NAS software, and EMC gets the association with Microsoft for a very large small-to-medium-sized business market space," he said.
Kerns said EMC will use the solution as an offering to its resellers. While EMC's partner, Dell, already has a Microsoft SAK solution using their servers and combined with storage, Kerns believes the new NAS solution is an "affirmation" of how successful the Windows-powered solutions have been during the past year.
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