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StorageNetworks touts storage-specific operating system

Could service provider Storage Networks, Inc. get into the operating system software business? Its CEO won't rule out the possibility of releasing an operating system that's optimized for enterprise storage applications.

SANTA BARBARA, CA - Could service provider Storage Networks, Inc. (SNI) build an operating system that makes storage hardware from big companies like EMC and Compaq a commodity?

Storage Networks isn't making any commitments, but it hasn't ruled out turning its new Storage Operating System into a commercial product, CEO Peter Bell said yesterday. SNI has been using Storage OS as part of its storage outsourcing service for about four months and has no immediate intentions of straying from the service model. ``But we're building [Storage OS] as you build any product,'' Bell said. ``What we've heard from customers is that they want accountability.'' Bell spoke at the Merrill-Lynch Storage Technology Conference here.

SNI may see that accountability as belonging to a service provider rather than a hardware maker and indeed, Merrill-Lynch has touted SNI as a potential powerhouse in storage software. Bell did little to downplay that image in his remarks to a group of institutional investors. He painted a picture of the storage environment of the future as being less hardware-dependent and more switch-dependent than it is today. Storage Networks' goal is to ``deliver a centralized operation that ties switches together in a management platform,'' he said. ``Switching will drive the business.''

Storage Networks last year had a falling out with EMC Corp., once its largest technology supplier, and has been beating the open systems drum ever since. Bell said the company has been able to trim its capital expenses by 50% without affecting service levels by diversifying its hardware suppliers and focusing on storage management at the switch level. Under that scenario, he said, ``The general hardware makers will have the chance to build functionality that leverages the operating system.'' However, the hardware itself will be less relevant under that scenario, he said.

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