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EMC bags IDC's TCO blessing

To shore up its value proposition, EMC is trumpeting the findings of IDC Research, which claims to show that by using its centralized storage and software, users can achieve a nine-to-one reduction in storage-management labor costs, as well as a 90% utilization of storage capacity versus the more usual 50%.

That EMC is building a new competitive research tool for its arsenal, and has engaged IDC to study TCO (total cost of ownership), is a mark of how serious the price/performance threat from the likes of IBM and Hitachi Data Systems is in these times of more frugal IT spending patterns.

EMC has gotten IDC Research director Robert Gray to claim that by digging deeper than the EMC purchase price "the TCO savings are profound." Gray admits that when he first heard that EMC's TCO may be less than other vendors', he thought it was "an anomaly." Not any longer apparently. He claims the improvements in TCO are largely down to software, not hardware.

However, not everyone at IDC is over the moon about the way EMC has managed to bag IDC. One storage research director we spoke to said the first he had heard about the study was reading it in press releases ? "It's embarrassing," he said. Inside IDC there's always going to be competition and, to be sure, the TCO research does not live within the company's storage research group. However, the degree to which EMC has elevated the findings is sure to raise eyebrows.

The reason is that EMC has been clobbered by IBM and other vendors' continuing claims that the total cost of ownership of EMC storage and software is much higher than its own.

A decade ago, 75% of the cost of storage was in the hardware, according to EMC. Today, that's down to 10% to 20%, with people accounting for the majority of the rest. Indeed, by any measure we've seen, the cost of managing a storage area network is already between five and seven times the cost of the system purchase itself.

So what does the study show? It suggests that today a single storage manager can typically control 3.5 terabytes of data. But, with an EMC infrastructure, one manager can control more than 30 terabytes, it says. That represents and reinforces EMC's view that centralized storage and management, rather than networked storage, is key to a lower TCO. However, IDC doesn't compare this with any other specific vendor or technology.

By reaching out for the storage TCO golden ring and having IDC riding shotgun, it will be interesting to see how other vendors respond to EMC's latest gambit.

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