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NetApp's software strategy unchanged

Network Appliance Inc.'s (NetApp) sweeping OEM deal with IBM, announced this week, does not alter its proprietary software strategy, which remains closely tied to NetApp hardware.

The OEM arrangement is a one-way deal, with IBM rebranding most of NetApp's hardware. In return, IBM Tivoli will become the "preferred supplier" of backup software for NetApp customers, and the two companies will improve integration between their products.

But if you think that working with Tivoli will make NetApp's software any less proprietary, think again, said Steve Duplessie, founder and analyst of Enterprise Strategy Group. "From a Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) perspective, it's more of a handshake agreement than anything overtly technical," he said during an interview on Storage News Radio. For the full scoop on Duplessie's opinion on this deal, click here.

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Industry analysts believe that NetApp is integrating its software with several framework suppliers, not just Tivoli. "CA has also been working closely with them as well on framework integration," said John McArthur, group vice president and general manager of infrastructure technologies at International Data Corp.

NetApp's goal, it seems, is to make sure that its software is tightly integrated with all the major systems management suppliers. Tighter integration with these products means that NetApp users don't have to install additional NetApp tools to monitor and manage their data.

"Plugging NetApp software into the TSM framework makes very good sense … Roll forward 18 months, and it gives their customers an even wider range of controls in data granularity, movement and policy controls to fit whatever environment they are facing," said Brad O'Neill, senior analyst at Taneja Group.


Diane MacAdam, partner and senior analyst at Data Mobility Group, said NetApp will be able to create copies, or snapshots, of files on NetApp appliances, and TSM will be able to more closely communicate with that snapshot technology and facilitate copying those snapped files to other hardware, such as IBM tape for example. "TSM could send backups from IBM disk to NearStore," she added. "I don't see NetApp applications folded into TSM, but I do see much closer integration than exists today."

No one seems to think a merger between the two companies is in the cards. "NetApp is not a company that needs to be bought; it's very expensive from a price-to-earnings perspective, and it's not either company's intent," Duplessie said.

"We decided not to acquire IBM," quipped Dan Warmenhoven, CEO of NetApp, on a conference call with press and analysts this week.

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