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IBM to lure EMC storage customers

IBM has launched an all-out attack on its biggest storage competitor by offering a new program that will give EMC users a simple way to migrate to IBM storage systems.

IBM announced today that it is launching a storage migration program designed to entice EMC customers to replace their existing storage servers with gear from IBM.

IBM said a team of more than 100 consultants and technologists have been trained to help transfer customers from EMC to IBM storage products.

"This migration program is intended to help customers realize substantial technology and cost benefits offered by IBM storage products," said Dan Colby, IBM's general manager of storage systems. "This patent-pending migration technology provides an easy path to help speed the migration process and avoid network downtime."

Colby did not get specific but, according to analysts, the "patent-pending" technology is a new storage-specific appliance. The appliance acts as a non-disruptive data migration tool that moves data from EMC Symmetrix systems to Shark arrays. However, details of the product remain a mystery. No additions to IBM's storage product portfolio have been made public.

IBM's migration team will utilize a three-pronged approach in attempting to attract EMC customers. IBM will evaluate a user's current storage infrastructure and develop a new solution that can help customers in several ways: by addressing greater performance and lower total cost of ownership; by providing a storage infrastructure implementation plan identifying customized financing options; and by providing data migration services to help move the customer's existing data from older EMC systems to new IBM hardware.

EMC spokesman Dave Farmer said EMC is not overly concerned about IBM luring storage customers away.

"The momentum is clearly behind EMC. Last quarter, IBM reported that Shark sales were down 10%, while IBM's CFO John Joyce openly disclosed losing share against a key competitor in the high-end," Farmer said. "In 2003, EMC is experiencing accelerating growth. EMC's sales are up 11% compared to overall storage market growth estimates of 2% to 3% -- clearly a sign that EMC is gaining share."

Farmer said EMC invented non-disruptive data migration technology in 1995. "Over the last two years, we've migrated over a thousand terabytes of IBM data for over 100 customers onto EMC storage," he said.

While IBM says this assault on EMC is an "audacious move" that "couldn't come at a worse time for EMC," Charles King, research director for the Sageza Group Inc., believes IBM is being a bit melodramatic.

"EMC has been doing well over the past year, expanding from its traditional enterprise base via its Dell alliance and getting traction with products like Centera and its ILM strategy," King said.

However, according to King, IBM could enjoy some success in stealing customers away from EMC.

"[It's] a definite maybe. IBM, after all, has ongoing relationships with these customers, so doors will open pretty readily for them. In addition, they have the option of leveraging storage as part of greater system sales," he said. "Those are two big pluses, along with the fact that by creating this program they're offering their channel and business partners ways to make new sales."

King said the tough thing for IBM will be making a compelling argument for why customers should abandon an established storage vendor that many have worked with for years, and who continues to improve its product lines. "In short, it should be easy for IBM to get in the door, but how compelling customers will find their pitch remains to be seen," he said.

As a part of the initiative, IBM's business partners will also offer the data migration services and have been given access to IBM's data migration tools, services and support.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Editor.

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