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Q&A: McArthur, Duplessie rate the storage vendors

CHICAGO-- In an industry often clouded by buzz words and marketing speak it's hard to tell which storage vendors have promise and which are just spinning their wheels.

In a panel discussion led by STORAGE magazine's Editor-in-Chief Mark Schlack during the Storage Management conference being held here, storage experts John McArthur, vice president of storage research for the Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp., and founder and analyst of the Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group Inc., Steve Duplessie, put in their respective two cents on the strengths, weaknesses and direction of some of the storage industry's biggest vendors.

It's looking like the merger will go through. What's your opinion on "ComPackard"?
I think you may never see them again. The negative is that it's such a massive integration. Compaq has a terrific storage business and at face value there are a lot of synergies between the two companies. They have a dominant midrange storage product. But, how well do these two fit together? The competition loves this deal Where do you see Veritas in the software market?
Veritas is innovative, but, it's hard for a company to change software that fast. It has to be a lot better to justify ripping out what I have. Veritas has to get quality and support up to a higher level. They grew so rapidly over the last few years, but the [growth] was necessary to compete with BMC Software and Computer Associates What about companies like FalconStor and virtualization?
FalconStor has a good team of engineers. Virtualization is an enablement for some things that they do in the area of replication. I think to get more focused on what their marketplace is. They're taking a bit of a buckshot approach. What about companies like FalconStor and virtualization?
The question with virtualization is where does that kind of function belong? It belongs in the network if you really want to enable interoperability. It's looking like the merger will go through. What's your opinion on "ComPackard"?
I like the Compaq Enterprise Virtual Array. The strength of the combination of HP and Compaq is in bundling capabilities along with support and services. They have a heck of a lot of technology. [The competition] also has a vested interest in trying to scare you. Be vocal to your HP and Compaq sales representatives and voice your concerns. I'd like to hear your comments on Hitachi.
Hitachi is doing great business with both HP and Sun. I'm of the personal belief that the giant, monolithic storage box is going to go the way of the dinosaur. I don't think Hitachi is doing as well as it could be with its midrange Thunder offering. I'd like to hear your comments on Hitachi.
Hitachi is limited as to what they can bundle with a device. Will EMC's move to software be a success?
Today everbody has good stuff. You can go to Wal Mart and buy a five-terabyte box and plug it in. You don't see a lot of people saying "that's not good enough" when it comes to hardware. Right now Everybody's caught up in hardware. EMC is in a different place now, they are at a transition point that's why you see them raising the bar in software. Will EMC's move to software be a success?
No company is losing focus on storage right now. Its harder on EMC to compete than ever before. Everybody is going to work with EMC because they have to. You as users have more power than you sometimes think you have. You can make your vendors cooperate. The one thing unique about EMC is that when they announce products they have support and interoperability surrounding them. The question is can they maintain that level in the future? Can you comment on EMC's deal with Dell?
I was a little taken aback yesterday when Mike Ruettgers said he would only use Dell as a tactical advantage by outsourcing some manufacturing. Dell has a core competency in low-cost manufacturing. They are also one of the biggest drive buyers in the world. They must get a better price on drives than EMC. Dell will be better at driving down cost on Clariion systems, that is if EMC sales reps don't get in the way. Where do you see Veritas in the software market?
Veritas is the 800 pound gorilla in their world. The trick is that the world is changing. What about NAS companies like Network Appliance?
Their stuff just works. They have bright people, but here's the bad news: they've got Howitzers pointed at them from everywhere. EMC is squeezing them at the high-end and a guy called Bill Gates has decided to enter the low-end with Microsoft enabled NAS devices. NetApp is a real number one player building very inexpensive ATA-based products, but you'll see some of the big companies validating [that approach as well]. Cheap is important. Where does McData stand in the director-class switch market?
McData has a lot of experience in networking, but they don't yet know how to be a volume manufacturer. Brocade knows how to be a volume manufacturer. You need to ask them how they're going to take cost out of their products. I think McData's software strategy is a big challenge for them because it puts them in competition with some of their partners. The director class market is a small market. Ultimately, the market will be absorbed into a more universal switching world. My question is - what's their strategy for non-Fibre Channel protocols? Over the next few years 20 companies are going to come out with really smart switches. What do you think about Microsoft's storage strategy?
They have the ability to adjust pricing to kill free software. Microsoft is the hardest company in the world to put pressure on. Can you comment on EMC's deal with Dell?
I bet you that in six months Dell is not only making the Clariion line, but it will own it. And in 12 months Dell buys EMC What do you think about Microsoft's storage strategy?
It's a good bet, but it doesn't matter if the stuff all sucks, they're going to sell a [ton] of it. They've got their sights set on the NAS space. If I was Microsoft I would be thinking about creating a universal API and let the Storage Resource Management vendors plug into that.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor


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What about NAS companies like Network Appliance?
You've got to look for suppliers like NetApp who are trying to drive the cost out of storage solutions. Also, they're not just about NAS, but they're also about content caching.

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