Hitachi and IBM: Friends or foes?

A year ago, IBM and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) announced a strategic technology agreement to extend interoperability between the companies' storage servers and allow customers to more easily deploy open storage networks.

Specifically, IBM licensed the storage APIs for its Shark enterprise storage server to Hitachi. This allowed Hitachi to continue to maintain compatibility with IBM's Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy (PPRC) and Extended Remote Copy (XRC) functions. It also supported such functions as FlashCopy, Multiple Allegiance, and Parallel Access Volumes (PAV) on its enterprise storage system marketed globally by HDS as the Hitachi Freedom Storage Lightning 990 series.

Fast-forward a year.

With slower growth across the industry and growing bottom-line pressure, an advisory issued by RBC Capital Markets, which follows the storage industry closely, recently suggested that "a new, distinct joint venture between IBM and Hitachi may be formed to cover enterprise disk arrays." RBC went on to suggest that IBM might choose to co-brand or OEM the Lightning arrays from Hitachi, de-emphasizing the existing Shark over time.

However, Arun Taneja, an analyst with Enterprise Storage Group, Milford, Mass., is having none of it. He says it's one thing for IBM and Hitachi to cooperate in the production of disk drives -- a commodity business with low margins. However, for enterprise storage arrays he says a joint venture is hard to imagine.

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"HDS is truly enjoying technology superiority at the moment with Lightning and the 9900V series they just announced," he says. Taneja says the evidence of HDS’ OEM relationship with Sun and HP makes it appear that EMC is the common HDS and IBM enemy.

"The competitiveness between these three has been put aside in order to go after the 900 pounds gorilla," he adds. Thus, Taneja says IBM OEMing an HDS product is one thing but a joint venture to build a common array is something entirely different.

"IBM has to see the array as super strategic…t impacts what they do in virtualization, Storage Tank and other storage management tools," says Taneja.

"In any case," he adds, "HDS is enjoying their moment of fame in this crazy technology business that can make a foe into a temporary friend just as easily as a friend into a foe."

For more information:

IBM denies layoffs result of deal with Hitachi

HDS's one-two-three punch

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  • Alan Earls often writes about things NAS and SAN in his weekly "SAN/NAS Update: Trends" column. View the latest
  • About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, MA.

    This was first published in June 2002

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